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Him: What’s bothering you?

Me: Nothing.

Him:  Why do you keep sighing?

Me:  I’m not.

Him:  You are.

After both my husband and son had conversations very like the one above with me, I realized something.  I sigh when my asthma is bothering me.  Long before the coughing kicks in, I sigh as I try to breathe deeply.  Now I know to look out for it as an early warning sign.

It doesn’t matter if the problem you need to address has to do with yourself or with society, step one is listening.  Only then will we learn that a problem exists.

Complaints about an election can indicate that people feel disenfranchised.

Concerns about hunger often point toward a lack of social justice.

Worries about the legal system might mean that we need to check to see that Justice’s blindfold hasn’t slipped allowing her to judge more harshly against one population that another.

Listen.  Listen deeply.  Even if you first reaction is to deny that a problem exists.

–SueBE

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Hope is passion for the possible.

This really resonates with me.  The ladies I blog with here already know I am an idea person.  I make connections and see possibilities.  It’s how my brain is wired. But I have also had to come to the reality that not everyone sees these possibilities.

That was the problem in trying to convince the powers-that-be that our church needed a new Facebook page.  Many of them don’t use any type of social media.  Because of this, they don’t understand how it works.  How did we solve it?  We put up the new page.

But sometimes I have to see the other person’s reality.  What is possible for me may not be possible for them.  That’s a hard reality to face when you truly believe in self-determination and doing things by your own effort.  But if I have access to resources that someone else can’t access?  Different possibilities.

Does this mean that everyone needs access to the same possibilities?  I hesitate to say yes.  It is too close to saying that MY possibilities and MY way are THE way.  I guess that’s why I think we all need to be in on the conversation.  I’m far too familiar with my own fallibility to think that my way is the only way.

And so, I remind myself to listen.

–SueBE

Irony oh irony.  Miss Ruth’s post on prison and second chances had me shaking my head when I saw it this morning.

Yesterday, we had another meeting at church to discuss Waking Up White.  The book discusses one upper middle class white woman’s awakening to the racial issues and social injustice in the US.  One of the many things we discussed was the prison system.  The topic that led into this was whether or not the police deal with African-American youth fairly.

One of the women told us about her daughter and a group of friends being stopped by the police as they walked home. Yes, there had been a series of break-ins in the area so talking to the teens was in order.  But the police were noticeably aggressive with the one young many who also happens to be African-American.  Coincidence?  Hardly.  Add to this the fact that the suspects in the break-ins were white and . . . yes, they were white.  So treating that one teen differently than the rest makes even less sense.

It isn’t enough to notice when you are treated unfairly.  We need to wake up.  We need to see how those around us are treated.  And while we are at it we should share some second chances.  There’s no reason that those of us slowly awaking should get them all.

–SueBE

Why do I expect that the goals God sends my way will be easy?  You would think that by now I would have gotten past that silly thought.

Putting off doing the laundry is easy.

Dropping paperwork onto a pile on my desk?  Also easy.

Talking to someone I don’t know about social justice?  Not so easy.

Why is it so hard to talk about race and racism?  In part, it was how I was brought up.  You don’t talk about things that make people uncomfortable.  When I was a kid, it was easy enough to avoid discussing racism.  We lived on the more or less white side of the highway.  We still live in the same area but it is now much more diverse. Racism doesn’t go away just because you are now in a mixed race environment.

But that doesn’t mean we have the tools to deal with it.  Remember?  We were raised not to discuss uncomfortable things.  We have to learn to see.  We have to learn to speak.  After all, racism won’t be reduced until it is not just a black topic but also a white topic.   I have to admit.  It is much easier for me to write about than it is for me to talk about.

Maybe one day God will set me on an easy path but apparently not today.

–SueBE

According to the Pew Charitable Trust, my family is solidly middle class.  But it can be hard to feel that way when you are the poor ones within an extended family.  We’ve never had a home built.  We don’t jet off overseas.  And we live on the wrong side of the river and we actually like it here.

In spite of this, I’m amazed at how few materials wants I have.  One of my editors gave each of her writers an Amazon gift card.  I would put something in my cart and then take it out again.  “Nah, I don’t really need this.”  Or I’d try to pick out a new pair of earrings . . . but no.  They’re pretty enough but I don’t feel a drive to own them.  It is amazing how many things I can talk myself out of buying.

Poor or wealthy?  In spite of the opinions of those who scoff at my non-designer purse, my heavily used car, and yes that is a hole in the toe of my slipper, I feel wealthy enough. I’m above the flood line and live someplace that has reliable electricity.  I have a home and heat.

But I still find myself longing for a few things.  I hate injustice.  And it drives me nuts when people abuse the environment which means that I want social justice and environmental awareness.

Wealthy enough to want for others?  Maybe I can make that a thing.

–SueBE

 

I’d love to be thinner.  And my house.  I want it to be neat.  Social justice?  The environment?  Yeah, I hope things get better there too.

But the problem is that I realize that change require more than hope.  It requires action and we just can’t act to fix everything.  It just isn’t possible.

So what does change really require?  Desire.  Drive.  Determination.  If we have these things, we will work to make change happen.

This means that my house will probably stay messy but I’ll keep working for social justice.  One of the things that I’m doing is reading a book – Waking Up White by Debby Irving.  As a start to facing racism head on, our presbytery has asked everyone to read this book. And each church needs to host a conversation of some kind.

What kind of event will we host?  I don’t know.  We haven’t gotten that far but we are determined to do something and four of us have started planning our event.  Desire.  We’ve definitely got that.  Fortunately with four of us working together we’ll keep each other moving forward.  We think we can.

Where are your desire, drive, and determination focused?

–SueBE

Sometimes we need to hear something more than once for the point to be made.  Today, I watched a TED Talk featuring Teresa Njoroge titled “What I Learned Serving Time for a Crime I Didn’t Commit.” (I’ve imbedded it below.)

Teresa started her talk by telling her story.  She worked in Kenya’s financial district in a job she loved.  She had studied hard to make it in this booming sector.  Then one day she was told that she had participated in a fraudulent transaction.  She was scared, but she hadn’t done anything.  By the time she was sent to prison, she has been asked several times to pay out large sums of money to make the problem “go away.” She didn’t so, in spite of her innocence, she went to prison for a year.  Her 3-month old daughter went with her.

In prison, she heard the stories of women.  Women with no educations.  Women from the poorest backgrounds.  Women who couldn’t pay bribes even if they didn’t trust the system.

By the time her one year sentence had been served, Teresa was determined to help women like these make better decisions and also have the resources needed to defend themselves from false accusations.  She founded Clean Start Kenya.

Teresa has since been exonerated of all charges.  She has also worked in the incarceration capital of the world – Louisiana, USA.

Yes.  The incarceration capital of the world is in the US.  Not North Korea.  Not Iraq or Afghanistan.  The US.

Thank God for Teresa Njoroge who refused to pay the bribe, who refused to write off her fellow prisoners.  This forest needs more trees like Teresa.

–SueBE

“Man, I just wish she would stop doing that.”

“Why can’t it be like X instead of Y?”

“Why doesn’t someone do something about this?”

We’ve all said things like this whether we were talking about DACA, global warming, social justice, or the items on your kid’s school supply list.  We say these things looking outward.  Why?  Because it is a whole lot easier than looking where change needs to start.

Whether it is an attitude or behavior, something personal or societal, change begins with you.  God will give you the tools you need.  The first one may very well be the awareness that something needs to change.

–SueBE

I had to laugh when I saw this was the next image in my queue.  Yes, I create them.  But I save them in batches to post one by one.  So it isn’t like I planned this for Labor Day, but how appropriate.

The problems we face as a society can be addressed on the small-scale.  Food drives.  Fund raising walks.  Fill a truck with . . . household goods or diapers or whatever the current need might be.

Or they can be addressed with laws and organization.

What needs do you see that may require a spike to create a long-term solution?

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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