Day 11: Why social outreach isn’t enough
Today is Day 11 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about The Sanctuaries, and engage not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
I can still remember: it had been a grueling day monitoring elections. As the sun set and the polls closed, we hopped in a cab and sped off to the local bar. Within a couple of hours, most of the team was letting loose and living it up. Some folks were dancing on tables, others tripping over each other as they shouted pop songs at the top of their lungs. We stayed until the early morning, rode home, and pulled ourselves out of bed three hours later to stumble our way back to work.
Our team would later decide whether democracy had “worked” in this fledgling developing country.
For a long time, I assumed social justice was something that happened “out there.” Taking down big mean corporations. Protesting exploitative governmental organizations. Without a doubt, some of that still needs to happen. But there’s another side to the story that we often choose to ignore: institutions are only as humane as the people behind them.
How can we work to give others a good life if we aren’t living one ourselves?
And I’m not just talking about partying. Prestige and profits, popularity and pop culture, there are many things that prove equally as addictive. Social justice isn’t just something we do; it’s something we are. It’s not just “out there,” but “in here” as well. The way we live our lives also matters.
I’m part of a generation that’s often chided for being narcissistic. For whatever reason, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to dismiss millennials as being self-absorbed. But that label doesn’t square with my everyday experience. I’m not disputing the fact that younger people can become quite self-centered, myself included, just like human beings of any age. What I more often witness, though, is something quite different: a yearning for self-empowerment. A desire to take responsibility for one’s life. In the words of KRS-One, a commitment to raising one’s “self-worth, self-esteem and self-respect.”
If social justice is something that’s lived, it is about you. It’s absolutely personal. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on yourself. In fact, I’ve found that windows often make the best mirrors. Try looking into someone else’s life and you’ll see things about yourself you never noticed.
That’s why Osa Obaseki and I started a new bi-weekly podcast called Soulidarity. Each episode, we invite guests of diverse racial and religious backgrounds to reflect on the most important questions of our lives. We’re convinced that every person’s story holds a profound spiritual truth about the world we share, and that when we take the time to exchange stories, we’re not just entertained but also empowered. We witness justice incarnate.
In the end, that invitation to grow in and through another person’s story is what social inreach is all about. Perhaps one of the best ways to discover what to do with our lives is by engaging the lives of others.
Rev. Erik Martínez Resly
Lead Organizer, The Sanctuaries | Washington, DC