The news is overwhelming. From continued family separations to the continued lack of accountability when police kill Black people, soul-hurting injustice feels shockingly normal. We work as hard as we can to stay connected during social distancing but, in our country, the COVID-19 pandemic is unabated. This also means the economy is fragile and the crises of poverty are deeper. It might seem like nothing is stable. In times like these I ask myself “What am I called to do?”
I know this is scary. I have come to believe in the importance of facing our fears with eyes wide open so we may respond with wisdom and integrity. Growing up, there were many times I pointed out a problem only to be told “Oh, it’s no big deal.” Then I saw the problem got worse. I started saying “The leaky pipes won’t fix themselves,” and this is a metaphor for our democracy and the environment.
What are we called to do? This can be a heavy question in our lives already filled with responsibilities. UUCF’s mission is to “transform ourselves, our community and our world through acts of love and justice.” It’s a big calling. For each of us, we find a piece we can do, and we are part of a larger wave.
In our congregation in Fairfax, we have a UU the VOTE team, which is part of the national UU the VOTE effort to get out the vote across the country. Many other people and organizations are doing the same basic work we’re doing, so that millions of people are getting millions of contacts and we keep the post office alive! Beyond this, pro-democracy organizers are getting people to defend the election and respond to voter intimidation and, as the president makes moves suggesting he might attempt a coup, people are organizing to resist. Bear in mind, many around the world have resisted coups and most coups are defeated. But also remember, leaky pipes don’t fix themselves.
Social justice action – be it marching, delivering meals, advocating for policy changes or disrupting business as usual – is a way to cope with overwhelming challenges. It can also be healing. My commitment to activism began during the run-up to war in Iraq. I was horrified in the days after 9/11. I remember the PATRIOT Act, the Downing Street memos, growing Islamaphobia and anti-Muslim violence, a vice president arguing for endless war, and while now we talk about “alternative facts,” back then we talked about “truthiness.” At the time I felt something break, a crisis in conscience. This was not the country that raised me. Now, in 2020, I see many people reacting in a similar way.
This is a moment of deep possibility, in which we get to decide who we want to be. Transformation is very real right now. For so many reasons, we are experiencing grief, and it is wonderful that we care. Grief invites us to learn lessons from our love, not just for ourselves but for everything we touch. This is why I love organizing UUCF’s monthly food drive. I grieve not being together. I grieve the suffering in society. But to know that we are responding to the needs of the moment is transformative, and I feel healing inside. I crave that one day a month when we get together and collect what people need.
Through good works, we weather the storm. Sometimes we will win. Sometimes we will lose. In loving community, we give mutual support to carry the burdens in front of us. When burdens grow greater, and they might, community is all the more sacred. No matter what happens, no matter how hard things get, we can call each other back to ourselves through the many good works we choose. Justice is a choice we make to serve the needs of the moment. What acts of justice are we called to? What will we be called to in the future? Regardless of how these times shake out, finding my place and doing my part is the best thing I can do.