Charity begins at home.

She’s funny, Rev. Naomi Tutu.

When she tells stories on herself, about her own irreverent behavior, the audience erupts in laughter. And that laughter, connecting with our shared humanness, opens us to hear more uncomfortable truths.


To pray unceasingly for the oppressed without also praying unceasingly for the oppressors renders the prayer incomplete.

To harbor hatred is to cut ourselves off from our own humanity.

To engender hatred is to sever that same time within our beloved neighbors’ hearts.

“A person is a person only through other people,” Rev. Tutu says, using her own words to explain the way her father taught the concept of Ubuntu: I am because you are.

And by “other people,” she is quick to point out, she does not mean only the likable, admirable, “holy” people.

All people are all people, kind and wicked alike.

To pray for humanity requires praying for all of humanity, in all its mysterious complexity.

With Rev. Naomi Tutu (center) and a friend in Memphis, September 2022.

I’ve been thinking about Naomi Tutu’s bright smile and fiery words, reflecting on what it means to pray for the world, what it is to be connected as one.

To say, “I love my good neighbor more than my wicked neighbor,” is to say, “I love my knee more than my ankle.” Without both knee and ankle, there is no way to walk the path.

A person is a person through other people. Tragic people. Grieving people. Violent people.

To love what is lamentable without also loving what is infuriating is an incomplete, selective love. But to love both the lamentable and the infuriating in equal measure requires an uncomfortable, inward reflection.

“Attempting to hide from your history simply expands the effects of the wounds of that history. It drags out the impact of that history on generations to come,” Rev. Tutu said.

And, so, I must ask myself:

Underneath the sadness, the mother’s rage, and the compassion, what hidden part of me is drawn to the beat of that hollow drum that sounds like safety but is empty inside, devoid of humanity.

What part of me connects to the wrong side of this unbearable story, and how will I work to make that right?