Social Transformation

Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch in Gallup. It’s a bit commitment for us both – we’ve got to drive over an hour (one-way) from different directions just to get there. It was lovely to have a long visit and meander through conversations. And then it was time to head home.

Gas is almost 50 cents more expensive closer to home, so whenever I go to Gallup or Grants, I fill up. As I pulled up, I noticed a woman walking across the parking lot. She came over to me and asked for a ride to the nearby hospital. “Of course,” I said.

Then the clerk from the gas station kiosk poked her head out the door and said, “I told you to stop panhandling here.” So much shame crept into the woman’s posture and she quietly explained to me, as I tossed groceries, boots, mail, and boxes into the back seat, that she wasn’t panhandling, she just needed some help getting up the hill.

“No one wants to help anymore,” she said.

“People are afraid,” I answered. She was taken aback and thoughtfully got into the car as we headed up to the hospital.

In the five minute drive, she packed a lot into her soliloquy, I could have been anyone or no one at all. Money and phones had been stolen, no one understood, she was going to be homeless now after the theft, her doctor – 40 miles away – was the only one who ever helped her, she didn’t want to start drinking again but she ran out of medicine and was in so much pain.

And she was. In so much pain. She asked for nothing but for someone to listen and a ride up the hill. I gave it to her in full, and as she got out of the car, she said, “I know that this won’t last forever and I know that God will bless me.” I nodded and said, “I believe you.”

This morning, I thought about her again. Too many of us are too close to her situation. Unless you outright own your land and your home, have set up gardens and other ways to feed yourselves, a few bad months could set you out on the streets and finding something to ease your pain. Hoping for a kind ear and an open heart. Sometimes money will fill the need and sometimes to be acknowledged as a fellow creature on the earth fills something deeper.

I also thought about some of the currently popular spiritual systems that promise abundance as long as you perform your affirmations and cleanse your mind and your bowels. And if you haven’t found the yellow brick road, it must be your fault. You haven’t prayed enough, bowed enough, done the right yoga postures or chanted the correct mantra. We blame the victim – even it it’s ourselves. Especially if it’s ourselves.

“If only I tried hard enough” leads quickly to “I’m not good enough.” Once we become adult, too often we value ourselves – and are valued by others – based on on economic condition. Are we financially well off? Then we’re worth respecting. Are we financially struggling? Then, we are judged as unworthy.

We blame the individual rather than look at the broken system that allows for homelessness, hunger, and poverty. We strut when we have more than enough and we cringe when we do not. We are afraid to be victims of the conditional largesse of society at large. We’ll feed you … but … you’ll have to listen to a sermon. We’ll give you medicaid … but … you will have to find some kind of work to show you’re worthy. We’ll house you … but only a few hours a night and only if you follow our rules.

People are afraid.

What can we do?

Judging is not the answer. Blaming the victim is not the answer. We are not going to ‘om’ away, affirm away, yoga away our personal challenges without bringing everyone else along. Remember – we all expressions of the Essence of Life. If one of us is in any kind of poverty or lack — all of us are. You can’t run or hide. You can only pretend.

As humans, on this planet, at this moment in history, we have a responsibility. Yes, to one another. Yes, to ourselves. Yes to the Source we arise from. We rise together or we fall together. Which side are you on?

I thought about the phrase from the New Testament, “The poor are with you always but you will not always have me.” People like to use this as an excuse. “Oh well, nothing we can do about it, even Jesus said so.” We flip a few dollars to the person on the street, or at the intersection holding up a sign, and feel like we’ve done our duty. We haven’t. That’s not our duty, that is a simple kindness.

I discovered a fabulous discussion about this phrase by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and I highly recommend that you read it.

“… the poor will not need loans or charity, if people follow God’s laws and commandments, especially through living out the “Sabbatical Year” and “Jubilee … [Jesus] is actually condemning charity, philanthropy, buying and selling, and the larger hegemonic economic system. … Jesus is suggesting that if the disciples and other concerned people continue to offer charity-based solutions, Band-Aid help, and superficial solace instead of social transformation with the poor at the helm, poverty will not cease … we see why Jesus is crucified. Rather than conforming to a world that dehumanizes and impoverishes, Jesus through his words and deeds is a challenge to Empire.”

My metaphors are not the same as Dr. Theoharis’ – I don’t call on the Bible to affirm my spiritual insights and understandings. I’m more likely to call on the metaphors offered by rocks and trees and the quantum field. However, we are speaking of the same essence with different languages and symbols.

We are not powerless. All of us have our role to play. Our roles are unique to who we truly are and our personal soul mission on Earth at this moment. Yes, some of us are here to pray, chant, meditate, and journey into spirit worlds. But, not everyone.

  • some of us are here to be on the front lines – as escorts at abortion clinics, as witnesses at Black Lives Matter protests, as facilitators at the U.S. – Mexico border as children are ripped away from their parents.
  • some of us are here to do the daily grunt work – calling and writing their elected officials, knocking on doors to get signatures for petitions,
  • some of us are here to be in the public view – leaders, teachers, public servants.

If we don’t allow our own mission to move through us to find our personal place, our own role – we are obstacles to the transformation of an unjust society and a planet that soon will not be able to sustain life as we know it. That means us, kitten and puppies, coffee and chocolate. We don’t have to rant and rave and march aggressively. We do this work with the same mindful awareness as we are developing in our psychic skills, our connection to our souls.

Honor yourself and who you are here to be. Honor the woman who spent five minutes with me yesterday and claimed her blessing after releasing her pain. Honor me for being willing to allow her story to fill me so that I could offer this to you. Honor Spirit who gathers us all together so that we can create a world of justice, love, peace – where each of us flourishes to our highest possibility.

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