On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of spending a morning with my dear colleague Kathy Forte and about 40 other Cincinnatians. We were invited to come and take part in a workshop planned by the SC Ministry Foundation called “Communal Hope in Insecure Times.”
First of all, I should mention that the SC ministry Foundation is such a blessing to Cincinnati. Principled, patient and pastoral leadership is their M.O. and there seems to be a dearth of that these days. They are one of the few trying to fill that void.
Over the last year, they have hosted a couple of these kinds of events, which invite us to take an afternoon or morning to think about our work and confront some of the fear and worry that pervades our culture. It’s a different approach to capacity-building, and I really like it. Wayyyy better than another “How to Make Social Media Work for Your Non-Profit” workshop that other places offer.
When she said she was a “lobbyist,” my ears perked up. I’m not a fan of that word…but admit I’m really only familiar with it in its pejorative form. She is the exception to the rule when it comes to “lobbying,” though, as she’s an ethical advocate instead of a briber.
At any rate, she began by asking us to list all the things we did that morning to make us feel safer: lock our doors, carry a cell phone, take our vitamins, metal detectors, passwords on computers, seatbelts, etc. The list was seriously about 30 items long and could have gone on. She called this America’s “fetish with security.”
She followed this up with a poem, The Entrance of Sin, by Scott Cairns. Take a sec to read that, and then think on the last line:
The beginning of loss was this: Every time some manner of beauty was offered and declined, the subsequent isolation each conceived was irresistible.
After we read the poem, we made a list of things we mourn in this world…things that make us cry. People mentioned war, hunger, violence, addiction, discrimination and about 30 other things like that.
So what price are we paying for our “fetish with security?” It gives us the illusion of control in our lives. But it is only an illusion, isn’t it?
I think of my own personal journey, from knowing a few people on my street to knowing many. I seem to have more control of my and my family’s safety by knowing who lives around us and forming some kind of relationship with them. It’s when I don’t know them and they don’t know me that room is made for things other than relationship to seep in… Things like loneliness, apathy, suspicion, hostility and “other-ness” find fertile ground in the areas we don’t fill with friendship and community.
That list above of things we mourn in this world flourishes in the space we vacate between each other.
We talked, then, about the Beatitudes as being an alternative future, where we create community for the common good:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill.
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We ended with Simone telling us that “hope” is the only thing that can keep us going in the face of insecurity. And that “hope is ALWAYS relational.” She offered that when we feel nervous, our inclination should always be to reach out. How wonderful, huh?
It was a perfectly timed message for my week. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to help people have more people in their lives. How to craft the invitation, how to help people see the beauty in each other, and how to sustain and encourage those first sparks that can build more hope between us.
It’s not easy. Again, our world tells us to fear each other and spend as much money and time as possible to keep everyone out. My week was filled with the beauty of “yes” and the possibilities that sprout up when people show up for each other. It was balanced by the disappointment of “no” and people who, for whatever reason, choose to decline the offering.
So hope is always relational, isn’t it? There’s no bad day that isn’t made better by a hug, a shoulder to cry on or a phone call with a sympathetic friend. And there isn’t a good day that isn’t made better by sharing it with others. I’m always surprised at the simplicity of this stuff…and the fact that it doesn’t cost a dime!