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Individual & Community

What I'm Reading Today: Leviticus 13-15

Every Election Day I grow a little nostalgic because it takes me back to the year 1998 when I ran for the Washington State House of Representatives (the equivalent of California's State Assembly). I had been a political junkie since I was 12 – so the experience of running for office was quite an adventure!

There were so many lessons I learned from that experience. One of them had to do with the important of balancing the needs of an individual with the needs of a larger group/community. Let me tell you a story about how I learned that lesson.

Very early in my campaign, a woman got involved with my campaign. For the sake of anonymity I'll call the woman Susan. I knew early on that Susan had very strong feelings for me. She knew I was gay, but on some level it never seemed to register with her. As a result, she sought out every opportunity possible for us to be together.

I have never in my life seen someone as devoted to an effort as Susan was. She poured hundreds of hours into the campaign. While I always tried to be careful and certainly do nothing to lead her on, I also never directly confronted Susan about the situation.

As time passed, I was confused why the campaign wasn't generating more volunteers. I occasionally talked about it with Susan (who by now was the campaign's volunteer coordinator), and she said she couldn't figure it out either.

While we had a great run and a respectable showing, my biggest regret from the experience was that we never were able to get the number of volunteers I had hoped for.

After the election, I learned why that was.

Susan would tell many potential volunteers that their help wasn't needed; we had the work covered. "If we ever had a need for your help," she would say, "I'll get back to you."

She didn't.

Throughout the months of the campaign, she used the lack of volunteers as an excuse to create time for us to be together.

What I learned from this experience is that by not dealing with one person's issues (and accompanying behavior), I was not only being irresponsible. That's because one person's issues can be so deep that they affect the life of many others. A good leader knows that and deals with that. I wasn't a good leader - as I chose the path of least resistance and tried to look the other way.

In this day and age that emphasizes the supreme importance of the individual; it's so easy to forget the basic truth that one life often affects the wellbeing of others. That's why it can be so important to deal with individual circumstances. If you don't, the situation can get out of hand and impact the lives of others.

That message comes through loud and clear in today's reading where we read a long list of ways to deal with situations where one individual becomes ritually unclean. As you read about the various situations, it eventually becomes clear that the author(s)' goal isn't simply to isolate one person during their time he or she is unclean; rather, the goal is to ensure the individual's issues don't spill over and infect the condition of others.

I would invite you to carry that learning with you today. When you encounter situations with individuals that are challenging, be aware that the situation has implications that will touch the lives of others. Use that awareness to inform your response to the situation.

Til next time …

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