Another Saturday night around the Metroplex, but by no means ordinary. There was no smell of buttery popcorn wafting in the air, or overpriced Raisinettes to mindlessly pop into my mouth while staring at an oversized screen in the darkened Cenacle. But as Kurt, the Youth Minister of St. Ann’s, mentioned prior to the pre-screening of The Human Experience, it really isn’t “the kind of film” that you serve refreshments with.
Having viewed the powerful trailer (see below) six months prior, I jumped at the opportunity to view this documentary which has not been distributed yet. What a welcome discovery – that after all that time – the best moments of the film were not just featured in that trailer. Nor was the posed question ignored during those frightful flashes of human history, “Have we forgotten what it means to be human?”
The documentary dives into what most of us fail to see during our drive-thru oriented existences — those people who may unfortunately “live on the fringes” of society. They are the all too often forgotten, but under this spotlight they are not forsaken: the homeless, 3rd world infirm children, those dying of AIDS, lepers, and those abandoned by their fathers. For over an hour I felt like I was a fly on the wall of an existential journey of two brothers and their adventures with new and old friends. We traveled through the cold concrete jungle of wintery New York City, to Lima – the capital of Peru, all the way to Ghana which borders the Ivory Coast of Africa. It was like a tour of humanity, an exhibition of spiritual virtues – exploiting the strength of the human spirit in what may seem the most unlikely places.
I would be hard-pressed to find a soul unmoved in that “theater”. Even minus a “cast” of non-surgically-enhanced-overpaid-trained-award-winning-actors, my tears flowed freely. To hear a homeless woman relay the story of a gaggle of puppies that were quickly saved from the subzero wind chills and awarded warm homes by “Good Samaritans” right in her midst — without even a consideration given to her homelessness — it was heart-wrenching. The message of the gospel echoes in my mind as I reflect on that scene now, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
Equally inspiring was the Q&A session we had afterwards with two of the young men of the film production company, Grassroots Films. Overcoming their own personal struggles, they are using their gifts to build up the Kingdom. To see the young Church alive and kicking through efforts such as these, well, it’s like Bengay on old achy bones. Support them and their efforts: http://www.grassrootsfilms.com.
While the documentary would present a prime “soap box” opportunity, the filmmakers managed not only to avoid that pitfall but more importantly to stir up something within my heart. What am I doing right now to reach out to those who exist on the fringes? And I know that I’m not the only one left to ponder and work out a response. Humanly speaking, the world needs us to do much more than ponder.