On Monday, I went to the Stanton Center in Annapolis and spent two hours spooning stuffing and green beans onto the Styrofoam plates of the disadvantaged in Annapolis along with a service organization, We Care and Friends. I’m so glad I did. Revolution has offered so many chances to tangibly serve this community, and I love it. It has broken me and built me back up, better. I’m not, nor have I ever really been, a front line person, though I do lead. I like the one-on-one conversations or small group interactions. I like to plan and oversee. I like putting together the little details to make a grandiose picture, like using legos to build a life-size castle. I like directing the play, telling the pieces where to move, and any number of other metaphors. Revolution has retaught me the value of going to the front for certain things/times.
Anyway, doing things like serving at the Stanton Center makes me uncomfortable. Not because of who I’m serving but because of who I am.
What separates me from them? A zip code? Parents who invested in my success (not just financially)? A community? A few friends? Other things?
Not much, as it turns out. We all have red blood. We all have twisted desires and yet a longing for peace, hope, love, joy, kindness, goodness…you get the idea. I just happened to have had an easy shot at college, which gave me a job.
It’s too freaking easy to forget that, as humans, there is very little that differentiates us from anyone else when it comes to the bottom line. Our behaviors, sure, are different, but they are very much tied into the communities we are born in. Yeah, anyone (in America) can get out of their community…but how insanely difficult is that? Look at yourself! Look at me! I’m the son of a teacher and a telephone man; honest, hard-working, thoroughly middle class Americans. And here I am, a former manager now working as an administrative expert, whatever that means. It means I’m in the same community I was born in, and escape is difficult.
So what’s the challenge? Where does the rubber hit the road? It hits the road on the road. It gets out of the house. It doesn’t just throw money at problems so other people can address them, it actually gets out there and addresses them first hand, too. It’s so easy to feel like you’ve served by donating to worthy causes, and this is a completely worthy pursuit, but IT CANNOT STOP THERE! Lest we forget that we’re all human…
Our hearts should go out to the disadvantaged, and our dollars and our hands should follow. ESPECIALLY OUR HANDS! I watched faces light up as Andy Guzik talked to old ladies sitting around plastic cloth-covered tables. I saw children ecstatic as Tim Captain made ninja moves with them. Yes, stuff (money) is awesome, even critical, but interaction and community and personal relationship show that people care. Relationship shows that there is a way out and there are people that will help. If you gave me a tool that would make my life easier but didn’t come alongside me to show me how to use it, it would be worthless. Relationships equip people and prepare them to find what they’ve been looking for: peace, hope, love, joy, kindness, goodness… Relationships help shore up the walls and help find the strength to look up and see there is an escape from fear. Rub elbows with people who don’t live or behave like you but may need you. I know you need them, or at least your heart does.
I will finish with one thing that made me sad even as I enjoyed my time of service Monday. In the grand scheme of things, that event required fairly few volunteers and likely not an extraordinary sum of money. And yet, it is rare. Why aren’t 3,000 disadvantaged people served in this way (or some way) more often? Why isn’t that community brought together and collectively given hope more often? I don’t even know where to start and that leaves me excited and/or helpless feeling depending on the moment. Yes, the Stanton Center and other community centers are there for people 24/7, but the critical mass energy from so many people enjoying one another at events like Monday can explode from those doors in aftershocks of hope and joy…and turn the world upside down.