When I was deciding whether or not to join Facebook three years ago, I went to the one whom I knew would shoot straight with me. My Daddy. As we sat together, I told him that I was thinking about signing up, but I wondered what kind of Pandora’s box I was opening. I felt more compelled to join as my oldest was involved in activities that used Facebook as its main way of communicating.
Daddy sat for a minute and then answered, “Well, as long as you make it work for you, and you don’t work for it…..it should be all right.”
From the beginning I have kept his words in mind. They apply to all sorts of situations. But regarding Facebook, I’ve worked to keep myself from sitting in front of the computer for hours, keeping up with my friends’ and acquaintances’ comings, goings, breakfast menus, and all kinds of drama. I’ve learned not to obsess over what the vaguebookers are talking about. I’ve tried to be conscientious about my “likes.” I have to admit that because of Facebook I have found out about and been touched by all sorts of organizations and people who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place. It has opened my eyes to so many ways to serve our world and be a good steward of all around us. There’s so much brokenness in our world, but there are so many folks trying to help. That gives me hope.
So this evening when I sat down for a few minutes and logged in, this was waiting on me:
Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms and Magdalene. From their Facebook page, here is their mission, beautifully put:
Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, TN in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.
Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.
Rev. Stevens knows these women. She’s talked with them, cried with them, and most importantly, she’s listened. She KNOWS why these women are on the streets. When she says a community has failed them, I know she is right. And I find myself tearful, because I am one of that community. I am one of the many reasons these women are on the streets. “…..a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.” That. Breaks. My. Heart. We have to stop this.
And there are so many other heartbreaking ways that we, as a community, have failed. There are children who are hungry every weekend, when their weekday programs are closed. Too often I shop for my own groceries and forget to pick up something for their weekend backpacks until I am home and it’s too late. *whispering* I am so ashamed. There are programs that take care of the hard stuff. All I have to do is throw some extra groceries in my cart. And I can’t even do that as often as I should.
A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend who works with a ministry that helps people who are homeless and in need with all kinds of resources–health, education, emotional support, job training and so much more. We were lamenting about our friend who is now in a transitional program a couple of hours away. He needs friends there. Who are NOT in his program. Who can visit him and take him to lunch and just let him know he’s important to them. It’s a little hard to do from three hours away. Phone calls can only do so much. He needs to be looked in the eyes and to see that he’s Someone in the eyes of others. My friend sighed and said she sees the same thing locally. So many people come to her and want to “help,” but unfortunately, this means they have well-intentioned suggestions about how to do things or they come once and never come back. There have been far too few who have wanted to offer what is needed most. Relationships. These people who have been failed already by the system, their families, their communities, by us–what they need most is a relationship. To matter to someone. To have someone to cheer them along. To care for someone and be cared for in return To have someone to love them when they fall. Because they will at some point. We all do. This is what Jesus of the Good Book was all about. Why aren’t more folks, especially those who follow him, jumping at the chance to be a part of something like this?
Some kind people offer prayers for these kinds of situations–these people without homes, these women who can barely eke out an existence on the streets, these hungry children and so many other broken and raw circumstances. They ask God for an answer, for healing, for a solution.
Well, just a couple of posts behind Rev. Stevens’, I saw this one from a wonderful program that serves folks in need in North Carolina:
Oh dear. I was afraid it was something like that.
Because if God’s plan is us, that means I have to do more than read a Facebook post and think good thoughts for those folks. I have to do more than be sad. I have to get mad and get busy. I have to find my passion and work for change. And this is the kind of change I can actually get on board with. And today, I did get mad. Again.
My seventeen year old was looking at something that shows big sales on different websites. She had clicked on a website that sold purses. She has a thing for bags, and as most of hers come from the GW Boutique, therefore helping folks, I’ve decided to find it endearing. (And it might be genetic. Ahem.) As she looked on the site, “window shopping”, I heard her sharp intake of breath.
“One of these purses is $10,000,” she said quite indignantly. “Now that makes me wanna just slap somebody.”
Y’all, I am not perfect. My cup (and my closet and my pantry) overfloweth and much of it is my own fault, and I know I need to cut back. So much of this frustration is with myself too. That I have so much when there are folks with less than nothing…..it feels so wrong. When we live in a world, in a country, where women and men are living on the streets, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse and non-human ways of existing, no matter if it’s because of addiction or loss of income or what–IT. IS. WRONG. Their voices were silenced along the way. We don’t know their story before they became addicted, so how can we possibly condemn them for it? All I know is I am so lucky that I had a home and family to go to when my world fell apart many years ago. Not everyone has that. We should not be in the business of pointing fingers but rather about the business of opening our arms. In love. In welcome. In acceptance.
That means to those who are low in spirit, whether in jail, on the streets, or living next door. It also means to the children who are ahead of us in line at the grocery store as well as the children who never see a grocery store…..or enough food in their own homes. It means taking time to figure out what makes us mad. And working to change it. No single person can fix it all or can even help in every broken situation. But if each one of us did just one thing–built a relationship with just one person who was in need–I don’t know that it would fix everything, but I do know that we’d be able to see a difference. And offer hope and set an example for those behind us. To do just one thing.
I don’t pretend to know what your one thing is. I’m not even sure what mine is yet. But I do know that we need to start living like we mean it, and that we each need to have that one thing, that one relational thing. Maybe it’s checking on a friend who’s having a hard time, offering to help a new mom who is overwhelmed, maybe it’s talking with someone in a doctor’s waiting room or using your gifts and talents to create something for someone in need. I have no idea what your “one thing” could be. But I do know this–it will feel right. It might take you outside of your comfort zone for a bit, but it won’t be painful. As the great theologian and writer Frederick Buechner wrote: “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” It will look different for each one of us.
I also know that when you and I each do our one thing, it will not end there. We must be brave and intent in our mission, giving generously and loving fiercely. For as Mr. Buechner also wrote, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”
Just one thing. It’s a start.