It snuck up on me. A conference on social justice that we had signed up for months ago – before we realized what a crazy, busy season of life this would be and before head colds swept through the family. Part of me was thrilled to escape a house full of snotty kleenexes and whiney patients; another part was wishing I could curl up on the couch with them. But I’m sure glad I didn’t.
I listened to some amazing authors and speakers tell story after story about the projects they were involved in. Impressive campaigns to rescue young girls from sexual slavery, reform the mental health system, lobby corporations on behalf of migrant workers, battle the HIV/Aids pandemic, and on and on and on. Brilliant, driven men and women who, let’s face it, would intimidate a saint with their passion and selflessness.
Just the other day I felt completely overwhelmed by a counter full of dirty dishes. How can I face a planet full of suffering and injustice? Even now I can hear the siren song of mediocrity. Leave the world-changing to someone who is smarter and more powerful than you. You can barely keep up with your own busy life, how can you possibly do more? You do more than most people, pat yourself on the back and turn the T.V. back on.
I had braced myself for a heaping dose of guilt; for pictures of starving children with distended bellies and flies in their eyes, for stories that would rip my heart out. Perhaps a stirring rendition of “Man in the Mirror”? And I did dirty my shirt sleeve wiping tears and mascara streaks away (note to self – next time bring kleenex).
One man told the story of touring a hospital in Africa. The staff were kind, but overwhelmed. There were 4-5 babies in each crib. As he walked through, he was startled by an inhuman wail. Turning around, he realized it was the cry of a young mother as a white sheet was placed over the face of her infant daughter. Only a short time later he heard it again, then again and again – almost every 10 minutes during his visit there was another anguished scream.
But this was not the theme of the day. The story I heard repeatedly was one of hope and faith and joy. Each of these powerhouse leaders told stories about their relationships, not their causes.
My friend from Guatemala who is supporting his 11 siblings…
My friend who has schizophrenia…
My friend who cannot feed her children…
not sad stories, but inspiring individuals.
Yes, they are strategic. They are seeking restorative justice and systematic change. But this is not charity – they are simply looking out for their friends.
That’s something even I can handle. I may not understand the complexities of political change or walk with the movers and shakers in society. But I can be a friend to someone who needs it.
There is so much wrong with the world, so much that needs to change. It seems overwhelming. Yet, the greatest requirement of my faith is incredibly simple: love God and love others.
Can I do that? Can you? Can you make the world a better place for one person? That’s social justice. That’s where real change starts.
“We can do no great things, but only small things with great love.” ~Mother Theresa
So here’s me, finally washing my dishes… with great love. 😉