September 12, 2015

The Syrophoenician mother (Mark 7:24-37)

A Dramatic Monologue

Well, that didn’t go the way I expected! Most things go the way I expect, it’s the nature of the job I’m in, well, my husband and I of course.  I know, most people would be shocked at such a well-known person as myself in this neighborhood.  I can usually be found in the nicer end of town, with the other merchants.  After all, my family has been there as far back as we can remember, selling our dyes around the world.  You’ve seen emperors and kings wearing the purple that only they can afford, woven from thread dyed in our vats.  Our people have sailed around the world for hundreds of years as successful merchants because of the sea shells in our waters.  Everyone has heard of my people, and most folks welcome our traders with open arms!

I wish I could say the same for our neighbors.  Those troublesome Hebrews who think they are the center of the universe.  They have sneered at our Gods, knocked over our altars, and been a quarrelsome bunch ever since they arrived.  They’ve caused nothing but trouble for our greatest heros, too.  You’ve heard of Goliath, right?  So tall and so mighty a warrior that he could end wars and battles just by walking onto the field.  Sure prevented a lot of unnecessary bloodshed in his day.  At least he did, until some pipsqueak had a lucky shot with a slingshot.  And just a kid, if I remember rightly.  And our most famous heroine also helped prevent wars.  Remember, Delilah, right? She used her brains and beauty, and even her hair dresser to stop one of their fiercest warriors in his tracks.  What was his name again? S something, and stories said he had a whole lifetime of bad hair days until she fixed him up.  So if I’ve got height and smarts, I’ve come by it naturally, with such noble ancestors as that!

So when my housemaids were gossiping instead of doing their duties, I eavesdropped before giving my usual scolding.  Turns out it was a good thing.  One of their countrymen was in town for a visit, a Hebrew man and his friends.  The leader of the group was some kind of faith healer, and judging from the gossip of the girls, much more effective than the run of the mill shysters and snake oil salesmen we usually see around here.  We’ve seen our share of the medics, healers, doctors and priests these last eight years.  My husband used to go down to the docks when our trade ships came in, hoping that some Greek-trained doctor might be able to help.  We even turned to the Roman surgeons with their leeches and blood-letting, but those Roman fellows are more handy with a saw than a potion.  We borrowed the Governor’s personal physician, too.  No one helped. They tried, goodness knows, but they all gave up in the end, except the ones who kept promising better results with larger amounts of gold.  We gave up on them long before they gave up on us.  Like my husband says, “Never match wits with a Phoenician.”

The bizarre thing the girls said is that this guy never asked for payment.  Inconceivable! They always want something.  Every last one of them have their hand out for something.  And as my husband says, “you get what you pay for”, especially when it comes to healers.  But this time it felt like a sign.  My husband had told me just this morning that he was tired of throwing good money after bad and we had just better get used to the fact that no one knew how to help our daughter.

I was heartbroken, of course, and went straight to my daughter’s room.  It didn’t help that she was in the throes of another fit.  They seem to be getting stronger the older she gets, and it’s everything we can do to keep her from biting her tongue clean through, or to keep servants around to help take care of her.

So like I said, it felt like a godsend when I heard the girls gossiping, and I had a pretty good idea where I’d find them, in one of the bigger houses in the Hebrew neighborhood.  So I put on my most subdued shawl, they have some crazy notion that women should keep their heads covered, and made my way here.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect the look of hostility I got when I walked into the room.  I’m used to my gold rings and fine clothes bringing me a good deal of respect, especially amongst people like them.  They smelled of fish and sheep, for goodness sake!  It was immediately obvious to me who the leader was, he held himself like a temple priest, with dignity and quiet authority.  I didn’t care, if he could fix my daughter, I didn’t care what they thought of me, or my people, or my gods or my temples or my employment.  The only thing that mattered was my daughter!

I guessed that money would not buy this man’s help, but I could not believe him calling me a dog! Or my people dogs! I said the first thing that came to mind, “Even the dogs get crumbs from the children’s table!”

As soon as I said it, I knew that my big mouth had doomed my daughter.  These Hebrew men don’t like their women to talk to them in public, and with such disrespect, too.  I started to cry in anger and fear and helplessness.  My husband was right.  She was doomed through no fault of her own.  Then he touched my shoulder.  I looked up, and saw him, really saw him for the first time.  This man, this teacher, he looked tired, like the whole world was on his shoulders, like he had to carry a burden far too big for him, like he could see into the future and what he saw there was not pleasant.  Like he was trying to heal everyone in the short time he had left.  I could feel goosebumps at his gaze.

He smiled sadly at me.  For a moment it felt like we were the only people in the room and we had both forgotten to breathe.  “So many children, so many lost, and sick and dying children,” he whispered.  “So many mothers risking their lives and their hearts to find hope for their children.”

He said my daughter is healed because of I dared to challenge him.  I believe him, even though I haven’t gone home yet.  And once I get back, I’m going to see what I can do to help those other children who are lost, sick or abandoned.  My servant girls can help, now that my daughter is going to be okay.  I hope he comes back, or his followers.  It’s not just about me after all.  Sometimes we need to challenge our leaders, and sometimes we need to see a bigger story.  There’s so much to do, and so much to learn.  He can’t do it all himself, and if I can take some of that burden from his shoulders, I will have done a good thing.  It’s the least I can do.

The Pillow Method

Posted 05-02-08 at 11:20 AM by Grafter

I was introduced to this communication tool during an Interpersonal Communications course I attended at my University. The Pillow Method was reportedly developed by a group of Japanese school children and first reported by writer Paul Reps in the book Square Sun, Square Moon published in 1967. Its purpose is to help boost empathy or find merit in another’s position. The name comes from the analogy that a pillow has four sides and a middle, just like all problems. By working though each side of the problem, viewing an issue from each perspective, we should be able to find value in another’s perspective.

I've created a visual to illustrate the method and positions and attached to this blog.. In the center I placed a symbol synonymous with finding direction, a compass rose. In this case I have used the Numbers one through four instead of north, south, east, and west to signify where to begin and which direction to move toward.

Position 1: I’m Right, You’re Wrong. This is the perspective most of us default to when we view an idea or hear a differing point of view. It is the perspective that we believe and have faith in, and requires little effort for us to understand. As a metaphor I have used the yellow circle with the green border to signify “I’m right.” The blue circle with the red border and cross hash symbolizes “You’re wrong.”

Position 2: You’re Right, I’m Wrong. In this position we must play devil’s advocate and begin looking for flaws in our own perspective. It also requires us to find the strengths in the other’s position or view. This is often the most difficult task to accomplish However, the fact that we can understand another’s position does mean we have to approve of it. Position 2 is represented by the same metaphors of Position 1, but are reversed in this case.

Position 3: Both Right, Both Wrong. Once arriving at the third position we should be able to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of both perspectives. Each side has merit and flaws. More importantly, we should be able to identify commonalities between our positions. Position 3 is represented on the pillow with two yellow and green circles and two blue and red circles. We now have a broader view than we previously had.

Position 4: The Issue Isn’t as Important as It Seems. In this view we may find that we have made the issue out to be bigger than it truly is. Even in the most severe or traumatic events the effects of the dispute will eventually lesson or fade away. I have used the same yellow and blue circles to signify this position. In this case they surround question marks as if asking “What were we arguing about?”

Position 5: There Is Truth in All Four Perspectives. The process of looking at an issue from these four positions should yield the idea that most disagreements contain both right and wrong elements. Whether or not we have reached agreement, we are able find merit or understating of an opposing position. This is the middle ground. I have used the Japanese script for “Truth” to signify this position and to give appreciation to the young Japanese children who have been credited with The Pillow Method.

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Position 1: I’m Right, You’re Wrong.

Position 2: You’re Right, I’m Wrong.

Position 3: Both Right, Both Wrong.

Position 4: What’s the bigger picture?

Position 5: There Is Truth in All Four Sides

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