A few weeks ago I joined some friends from Oakland and we went and participated in a night-time peace walk around a few blocks of our neighborhood known for violence and a high murder rate. Just being a presence as a crowd of pastors and lay people, greeting people, holding up signs saying ‘an end to gun violence’ and letting the people know we had had enough and were not going to simply sit back and accept it any more. It is something I definitely want to get more regularly involved with.
Then yesterday I had breakfast with one of the leaders of the City Team and just got to hear some of his heart. I was given a brief tour of their downtown building where they host a homeless shelter and a clinic and recovery meetings and and and [Three full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers]. He told me that Oakland is the second biggest city in terms of human trafficking in the country and shared some of the insanely ridiculous legislation that is in place which tends to victimise the victims while protecting the perpetrators [or at least treating them a lot less harshly]. They just scored a small victory in getting part of that changed and are working towards greater justice there in weeks and months to come.
I think back to a response I got to posting the South Africa meme that ends with pictures of township life and the harsh face of reality for so many people, instead of the more popular one which shows ‘What Living in South Africa is really like’ as wine tasting and people on beaches watching sunsets [which it is for like 5% of the population].
Lastly my mind wanders back to the strong reaction [often from people who self-identify as Christians] I get any time I write a status or post suggesting that international sports stars or musicians get a disgusting amount of money for what they do and imagine if their out-of-this-world salaries were rather put to good use affecting hundreds or even thousands of people.
And I don’t know how to say what I want to say without coming across as judgemental. [Because, let’s be honest here, I probably am, and it definitely starts with me and my life held up to the mirror, and then it most certainly does extend to you!]
Perhaps the best word and image I can use to explain it is hungry. I am hungry for people who want their lives to make a real difference in the world. I am hungry for people to look around and not be okay with the state of the world until every single person has justice and is able to experience the kind of freedom, opportunities and perhaps comfortability that we have [realising that perhaps each of us will need to sacrifice a measure of our own comfortability to help redress the balance].
Which, I think is why I am so attracted to people like Ben, who I got to breakfast with. Like Marci and Nathalie who I got to meet from the ‘Common Good’ Foundation at Common Ground church in Cape Town. Like my wife Valerie. Like the folks from the Steps Ministries in Buffalo or our friend Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and their community, Rutba House, in Durham, North Carolina and others.
None of us can change the world. But each of us can do something.
Poverty. Homelessness. Human-trafficking. Racism. Illiteracy. Malnutrition. Crime. Refugees. Street children. Orphans. AIDS. Rehab.
The list goes on and it really isn’t about you wiping out that list by yourself or becoming overwhelmed at the magnitude of it.
It’s about you listening, looking, finding one of those areas to get involved in. Joining some mission that is already on the go. Or starting something new [but there is a lot on the go].
It’s about not being okay with being okay with not being invested in a greater cause or mission than yourself.
It is not about feeling guilty. It is about being invested. This is a call to action.