About a year ago, I purchased a newer vehicle. Shortly after I got used to driving my new car, I began recognizing other vehicles which were the same make and model driving on the road. It seemed as if everyone has suddenly purchased the same vehicle as I did. Yet, it wasn’t that there was an increase in the demand for this vehicle, it was simply that I began noticing the car because I was more familiar with it and had a personal experience with it.
Can you relate?
What does this have to do with social justice? Perhaps this is why we hear over and over again that personal stories are what change policies and that our elected officials need to hear from the ‘people on the ground.’ But perhaps a deeper takeaway is that it can be difficult for us to relate to someone’s circumstance if we don’t have experience of it ourselves just as I never noticed the other cars on the road until I was driving one myself.
Recently, I had the privilege to spend time with the Ministry of Welcome Team as they hosted three women for their Service Immersion Retreat Weekend. I spent part of the weekend with the group as we broke bread together and engaged in discussions about service work and systemic change work. I was invited to give a presentation to the group about my experience with justice work and the path that brought me to listen to this call and follow the path to this vocation.
Through my presentation, conversations emerged about experiences with service work and we saw the importance of connecting systemic change work to the service we do. Just as my newfound familiarity with my newer car allows me to see similar cars all around me, it is important to build relationships with those we are trying to serve and with the Earth so that we can better understand their stories, their struggles, their successes and then help advocate with them and on their behalf to change the unjust systems in our world today.
As our conversations were coming to a close at the Service Immersion Retreat, one of the participants shared two questions that have challenged and inspired her, and after hearing them, they have begun to challenge and inspire me as well: What breaks your heart? What are you good at?
Let us continue to serve, to build relationships, to better understand what breaks our hearts so that we can then use our strengths and talents to change systems and structures for the better.