Recently we showed the movie, McFarland, USA at our Church. It’s based on the true story of Coach Jim White and the remarkable team of boys that became cross-country champions.
It’s 1987. Coach White reluctantly arrives in the economically depressed town of McFarland. It’s one of the poorest cities in America. It’s populated predominately by Mexican-Americans who make their living picking in the fields. He’s told by one of the school staff: “These are good kids”. She quickly adds, “These kids are invisible. They’re expendable”.
I won’t spoil the movie for you. I recommend it to you. It’s worth seeing for many reasons. That line stays with me. “They’re invisible; they’re expendable.” It makes me wonder. Who are the “invisible ones” here in our communities? Who don’t we see? Who do we think are “expendable”? Who do we easily and all too quickly discount as having little or “no worth”?
Are they immigrants, Mexicans or Hispanics like those in McFarland? Are they gays, lesbians, transgender or bisexual persons? Are they the old or the very young? Are they the ones with green hair, purple tattoos and multiple piercings? Are they gang members? Are they jobless and homeless? Are they mentally ill? Are they physically disabled? Who are the invisible ones among us?
It’s a dangerous blindness. It has far-reaching and destructive consequences. It causes hate-speech and acts of violence. It lets us overlook the needs for justice and systemic change. It not only hurts individuals; it ultimately harms all of us. Care, concern, compassion and respect for one another are what help hold a society together. The refusal to recognize and acknowledge the full humanity and worth of others can’t build community. Without community none of us will survive.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his classic work The Little Prince, writes: “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
How clearly are our hearts seeing these days? What are we doing about what we see?
The Reverend Doctor Faith J. Conklin is the Senior Pastor
at the Escondido First Methodist Church.