How do we live out compassion in our wider community?
I hope for you this is one of the largest themes you see here. I think it’s the area that we so often fail the most in. We love our families and those in our close knit community but what about the others?
Well, we have to go to them. We have to go out of our circles and our comfort and not talk about them as a “them.” People become marginalized because we talk about “them” as though those who are different or experience poverty are some kind of idea and not a living breathing person.
Groups of people are marginalized because we don’t see them as people, wholly and masterfully made and crafted by God. People whose lives have placed them in circumstances and required choices most of us will never have to make and honestly don’t understand.
So what do we do about it?
Archbishop Helder Camara spoke one of my all time favourite quotes and I think it gives us the two steps we should be taking here. He said “When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why they have no food, they call me a Communist.”
It’s so great! Isn’t that how we are as a society? The dissonance in our culture around those that are marginalized.
Politics aside it lays out both sides of what we need to involved in. We need to feed the hungry and work towards a community where they are no hungry. We need to support “the other” until there isn’t an “other” what every group that may be. The problem as he so perfectly put is that people tend to leave the systems or worse continue to support and attack those working for real change. We work to lessen the impact of a broken system of oppression but how often do we work to change it entirely?
This is a big topic for a Friday afternoon but there are some really practical things you can do on both sides.
When it comes to investing in those who are marginalized try one of these progressively more involved ideas:
- Give to the food bank. Take something from your budget you don’t need (name brand foods, chips, beer, Tim Horton’s, etc) and support the food bank.
- Find a local agency that works with a community that you are passionate about (youth, parents, seniors, those with mental health issues, trauma survivors) and volunteer
- Connect with one of our local jails (Grand Valley Institute for Women or Ray of Hope) and invest in some of the most marginalized people in our community
- Become a foster parent. What better way to love and share grace and hope with someone then to bring a young person needing stability and love into your home
Systems are always harder. They are big and we often don’t even see them. They just are. I think for most of us there are some simple starts and I stress these are just starts but we need to understand poverty and marginalization:
- There are loads of articles on what the experience of poverty is like, do some reading
- Talk with a friend, colleague, acquaintance about what living on Ontario Works (welfare) is like. It’s surprising how little a family is given to survive on. We as a community don’t do enough for some of our most vulnerable people
- Connect with immigrant services and what that experience is like. What is life like here for a new immigrant? What is it like to not know the language? How jarring is it to not understand a culture?
- Talk to someone who is gay and specifically their experience with Christians. It’s usually not good which is exactly what you’d expect from a religion based on love and grace…….
If you want to really get into this, live a week in the shoes of someone in poverty.
Let’s be generous and say you have a full time job. So $10.25 an hour (minimum wage) for 35 hours a week means you get $358.75 before taxes. Assume taxes around 22% and you net $279.83 a week, monthly income of $1,119.30. Now lets start taking it alllllllll away. Rent: not getting much for less than $700 a month especially if you need space for your family. Ok so single mom, 2 kids and $419.30 left for EVERYTHING. That $105.00 a week for food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, etc.
Give it a go.
Try living on $105 for a week. Probably can’t use your cell phone that week because how would you pay for the $60 a month bill? It’s actually a miracle you go at job at all without a phone, how did they call you back to tell you you got it? No eating out. No using your car because how can you afford the gas let alone the insurance on it so you’re walking or taking a bus but remember those bus tickets come out of your $105 a week literally taking food from your child.
Hope you don’t need to get anywhere.
And you’d best we some kind of a wizard to make decent healthy meals for your kids on whatever you’ve got left after you paid your bills.
We don’t get it and we don’t do enough to fix it. Get involved and get educated. We can’t call ourselves a community of love and grace if we just ignore the hell we leave people alone to live in every day.