Zita the Spacegirl is the first graphic novel in the trilogy by Ben Hatke.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of an eye. When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.
Discussion and thoughts: This graphic novel was hard for me to follow. However, I enjoyed the overall plot, which ultimately is about helping and caring for others above the self. As Zita searches for her friend, she runs into many who need her help. She stops her quest to help every need she sees. In many ways, this story reminded me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). Those she helps are strangers and not even of the same species. Yet, she stops her mission to help others, and this help is on a personal level. She touches them and fixes their “wounds,” she has a conversation with them, she listens to their problems, and her selflessness converts a con man.
It was interesting to read a book about helping others during a time where I have been contemplating this more. I know I am not the only one thinking about this more. Many people are asking themselves how they can help in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The outbreak of the coronavirus adds a new twist as we are asked to follow new social distancing ideas. Given this, most of the suggestions online have to do with financial help. All nonessential businesses have been forced to close, so many ideas center around helping small businesses survive such as buying gift cards or grabbing takeout at a local restaurant. Charities, such as the food bank or homeless shelters, also first suggest donating money to their cause.
I understand the need for financial support, especially for local businesses. Allowing people the ability to support themselves and their families is one of the highest forms of charity. I also get the importance of giving to organized charities. Combining resources allows more people to be served. For example, giving money to a food bank that buys bulk food is cheaper, more organized, and people know where they can go to receive food. The church is asking for more money also because churches are where many people go when they need financial help, and many are losing their jobs. Giving money allows us to help and yet remain safe from contracting the virus. We are called to tithing often in both the Old and New Testament, and even Jesus gives this command personally:
Mt 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
I’m not against giving money, but my concern has been in thinking about how the world will look when we come out of isolating ourselves from society. Especially in the younger generation, where we are stressing social distancing from each other. I volunteer in a few places, and there is no longer any interaction between the volunteers and those we serve. The food bank has become about packing boxes and placing them on the sidewalk and leaving them there for those in need to pick up in their cars. Resource Centers now put diapers and formula on the sidewalk for pick up. Even the medical community has started this drive-by service where they come out in hazmat suits to solely check physical needs.
Are these concepts of “helping people” going to linger once this pandemic has passed? A world where everything is drive-by or delivered? Will we continue to not interact with each other, and especially no touching? A world where our idea of helping people will solely be about meeting material needs.
Fear can have lasting effects on young minds, and we are telling children to fear contact with others.
Zita the Spacegirl helped many in this graphic novel, but it was always more about how she treated them on a personal level, not solely on what she gave them. She became their friend and cared about who they were.
Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us: Love each other as I have loved you (Jn 15:12).
Jesus helped others on a personal level. He touched them. He talked to them. He listened to them. Jesus’ help always came with a relationship, and we are called to “live just as he lived” (1 Jn 2:6). He interacted and touched those that were deemed ‘unclean’.
We have to love as Jesus did, and that is interacting with people. Love is having a relationship with people. Love is giving of the self more than it is of providing material items. One of the reasons St. Teresa of Calcutta was such an inspiration is because she touched the poor, she interacted with the poor, and her hospice focused on being with people while they died. Her ministry was about being there for people, not only meeting their material needs.
For me, I don’t see an emphasis on this kind of help right now. I am sure there are a lot of people who live alone, and they are being forgotten during these times, and they are lonely. I hope when we come out of this, we don’t forget about helping people on a personal level. I hope the idea of charity stops being a drive-by exchange of goods.