With the capability of today’s news media technology, it is a “no-brainer” to expect to daily hear and read of stories from around the world which are filled with tragedy, violence, oppression, exclusion, and many other blatant forms of injustice. Receiving such news often brings me to the point of tears: tears of anger, frustration, and sadness. Quite often, my response is, “It’s 2015! Don’t they know better????” I also try to be thoughtful of my reactionary thoughts and words: are they also violent (which can cause their own ripple effect in the world)? Are they compassionate? Do I take the opportunity to reflect on how I could possibly see part of myself in the perpetrators, confronting the violence within my own heart? How do these experiences assist me to continue opening myself up to further transformation? Do I just ignore this opportunity and run away? Am I paying attention? Am I making any attempt to walk through the door to meet “the other”?
Joe Grant of JustFaith Ministries has recently released a book entitled, Still in the Storm, and it contains many beautiful passages which inspire and challenge (rattle?) us in the area of social justice. I thought that I would quote one of them here which richly speaks to me on this day (and I hope to you as well):
Switching the Sign
How do you respond when gunshots blast precious
lives away? (For surely we must respond!) And, when drought
or famine, flood and fire come to visit , what do
When so many are seeking refuge
from the violations of war, and the changing of the
from the worries of debt or illness, and the despair
of grinding poverty,
and from that sinking, powerless feeling
in the face of it all.
Where do you turn? How are we to respond?
It is here, suspended in the crux
of this penetrating question
That prayerful presence makes all the difference.
First, resist the instinct to flee –
that urge to change the channel
and fritter away attentiveness on frivolous
Instead, pause, breathe,
and hold open your life
to the frightening fullness of the moment.
Visualize through the glass of a storefront door,
a hand reaching for a sign,
flipping it from CLOSED to OPEN.
Listen for that persistent voice,
the breath behind every cry,
that invites you to turn and be changed.
It starts as a fundamental re-orientation –
turning our lives, our attention, inside out,
with a deliberate desire to switch the sign to OPEN.