Here’s a story about a gentile who asked the rabbinic sage Rabbi Joshua who lived long ago in the days of the Talmud.
“Rabbi, you have festivals, and we have festivals. When you are happy, we are not happy. Is there no occasion where we can rejoice together?”
“There is,” replied Rabbi Joshua. “When the rain falls.”
The gentile asked him how the Scripture proved that all faiths can rejoice together when it rains?
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The rabbi raised his head towards heaven and smiled. He said to his gentile friend, “Read Psalm 65:14.”
“The meadows are clothed with flocks, the valleys mantled with grain; they raise a shout, they break into song.” The rabbi skipped over to Psalm 66:2 and proclaimed, “Raise a shout for God, all the earth.”
The rabbi explained to his friend, “Remember, the Psalm does not say, ‘Raise a shout all you Levites, you priests or Israelites.’ But it does say, ‘Raise a shout for God, all the earth.’ ”
We know that rain is a life-giving element that sustains us and the world we live in. Rain does not distinguish between white and black, Jew and gentile, Catholic and Protestant or Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh. Rain serves us all.
This parable reminds us that we live in times when we need a different kind of rain. It is not water. Rather, it is hope, faith and courage to join hands and give a shout to everyone as one united faith community. Can we pray that this kind of rain descends upon us so that we may nourish our spirits and give everyone a fair chance to live in dignity.
I felt that rain on last Monday at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, which begins each year at Hilton Head Island High School. So many different groups attended from not only the faith community but from different ethnic communities as well. The police were there and made sure it was a safe environment for all to enjoy the affirmation that the historic civil rights movement has not left us. People who back in the ’60s were young and are now in their golden years marched with the fervor and dedication they have had all their lives for human rights for all Americans. School bands played, and all the generations were represented in what was a glorious moment.
Yet, there is more work to do for our own community in improving life on Hilton Head. One of the key issues we have yet to accomplish can be summarized in one word — sewers. We need more rain, that is, a pouring down of financial help from everyone on Hilton Head to finish the job of providing sewer line hook ups to folks in our community who go without the basic necessitates of plumbing and sanitary conditions which the rest of us take for granted.
This problem, which has been hovering over our community like dark clouds for years, has yet to be solved. The public service district is involved, the Town Council has gotten on board, and the Community Foundation for the Low Country has taken the lead to raise $3 million to get the job done. It is an uphill climb, but it is one we need to make together. Yes, we need to raise “a shout to all the earth” because we who live in the comfort and beauty on our beloved Hilton Head can do better for our fellow citizens, regardless of race and economic standing, to enable them to live in a dignity that we probably take for granted.
As a religious community, we pray, study scriptures, practice good deeds and support each inside our respective congregations. Living inside plantations, we enjoy the protection and the amenities of our lifestyle.
Yet, this is not the only Hilton Head that exists. Many of us help out by providing funds for the hungry and housing such as Habitat for Humanity. We do lots of wonderful things for people who need our help.
Admittedly sewer line hook-ups is not an attractive project. There are almost 500 homes on this island without access to this basic necessity of life. The problem continues to impact our environment. Old and failing septic tanks cannot handle the rain and the sewage. People cannot flush their toilets or make use of their bathrooms. Can we imagine the “shout for God all the earth” if we could raise enough in charitable giving to bring this problem to an end? What would that say about us on Hilton Head? What does it say that we have not yet accomplished it?
Let the enthusiasm we created over the last week in celebrating King’s life as a platform for us to go further and to make a difference for our neighbors. Doesn’t everyone have a right to live in basic dignity? Is that not what we can do together?