If you know me, it should come as no surprise that I am rather opinionated and very passionate. One evening, while watching a movie that highlighted part of the suffragist movement in America, my now-fiance commented, “You would have totally been a suffragette.” And my response was, “Hell yea!”
He was right, and in my late teens and early twenties I was all about some social justice in action, protesting, and magnifying the words and intentions of people and organizations that, I believed, were harming our world. Today, at thirty-three, I am watching current events unfold and somewhat shocked at even my own response, and how different it is than it would have been ten or fifteen years ago.
I didn’t march yesterday. I have plenty of friends who did, and I support their efforts and courage. Friends from all different ethnic, religious, sexual, political, and educational backgrounds marched in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Memphis, Orlando, and other cities across the country to stand up for what they believe to be right, and against what they believe to be wrong.
After some deep thought, prayer, meditation, and consideration, I chose not to March. And while I don’t judge anyone who did or didn’t or thought about it or camped out all night, I stand by my choice.
According to international media news outlets, an estimated one million men, women, and even children marched on Saturday, January 21, 2017 to peacefully protest our new President, Donald J. Trump. That is an ASTOUNDING number of people who dedicated their time, talent, resources, emotions, and energy to something they truly believe to be important. I have seen some incredibly powerful images from rallies and protests and marches across the country, and I even found myself rallying in spirit with many of the people I have seen in these images and videos.
Just imagine, for a moment, what would happen if one million people used the time they spent protesting yesterday – let’s say an average of 6 hours spent preparing, marching, standing, speaking, and rallying – to take action in their local communities? Can you even begin to fathom how much good could be done in our neighborhoods, local government, cities, towns, counties, and states if SIX MILLION HOURS were spent serving others? That is an astounding amount of time, talent, and resources that people and organizations in our own backyards greatly need right now.
Now, let’s take those signs from yesterday. Some were very inspiring and true. But if I have to be honest, most of the signs and words I have seen and heard from yesterday are full of just as much hatred, violence, bullying, and malice as what I have heard from from our new President’s mouth. You can’t fight hate with hate. It just doesn’t work. I see this every week in jail and in the trafficked women I work with in recovery homes. Hate just doesn’t work. Love works. Period. End of story. Drop the mic.
And I don’t mean codependent, now-I’m-a-doormat, let’s-just-look-the-other-way Love. I mean real love. Love that speaks truth, even when it hurts. Love that makes messes because it is not afraid. Love that comforts. Love that provides compassion by way of empathy. Love that is FOR anyone but AGAINST no one. I am talking about real, gritty, beautiful, vulnerable, messy, gracious love. No force on earth can destroy that kind of love.
What if we spent six million hours over the coming days, weeks, months, and years, spewing love as opposed to hate? What if we reached out and listened to people who are suffering, rather than assume to know what they are thinking, feeling, and needing? What if we got our hands and hearts and cars and wallets dirty by serving people who need to be served? Every week I walk into Florida’s third largest jail and spend time with women who need people. They don’t need our money, or our pity. They don’t need another program or a handout. They need relationships. Scientific study after scientific study shows how the brain works and that relationships heal. Isolation kills. I have the immense privilege of being in relationships with women who need community in order to make a difference in their own lives, and in the lives of people around them.
As a Christian, this is my job. My life verse right now is Micah 6:8, which says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To ACT justly and to LOVE mercy and to WALK humbly with your God.”
Three action verbs: Act. Love. Walk.
That’s it. That is what is required of me, and what I am called to do. Every day.
It is not my job to administer justice. It is not my job to force mercy. It is not my job to stand still and wait for a better tomorrow.
I didn’t march yesterday, but I did and do choose to act, love, and walk as best as I know how. The best way I know to do that now is to love and serve my fiancé well as we start a new life together, to extend mercy and forgiveness to my family, to walk humbly as I work in the jail and with ministry interns and with trafficked women, and to love. To ALWAYS love. Especially when it is hard and I don’t want to do it.
Will you join me?