I was drawing a blank about what to write this morning and I thought to myself, "What is the one message that you really want people to hear?" Not surprisingly the message I came up with is one I have expressed in this blog and in sermons time and time again. Forgive me for repeating myself. That message is this: we are all connected. When one of us suffers we all are in danger of suffering. When one part of the world is made a little safer, we all are a little safer. We help ourselves by helping each other. We are in this together. To put it in religious terms, God calls us to work for justice and peace for all of God's creation. That is how we work toward the Kingdom of God.
There it is. There is my message. It could be stated more eloquently, I am sure, but the passion behind it is real. But, even in an old message there can always be new insight and new perspective. I found such as I looked around on the internet last night. Two very different sources gave me inspiration and hope. The first was a blog on the Sojourners website "Ending Poverty In Our Time" by Derek Flood. This blog includes a video by a group called Live58 which attempts to unite Christians in action to end extreme poverty in this generation. The video is inspiring though I know little about this group and from what I read on the website I do find it to be a little too exclusively Christian (now there is a comment that will make me popular among my more conservative religious neighbors). But what was inspiring and hopeful to me in this blog was the statistics that show how far we have come. We are making progress fighting poverty. We can make a difference. We know this because we already have made a difference.
The second source of inspiration was a talk on the TED website, "Coding A Better Government", by Jennifer Pahlka. It is a bit surprising to me to find inspiration in a talk that is in part about technology. I am not much of a techie. I can't even understand my blog stats. What was inspiring to me about this talk was the way she talked about government. She talked about the politics we see on TV being only a very small portion of what government is. She also talked about our participation in government being more than just voting.
Lately I have read a bit about the way we tell the story of people in Africa. We tend to depict Africans as living in horrible conditions without any hope, doing nothing but waiting on Americans to come and save them. This is not the full story nor the most helpful one in many ways. Hearing Pahlka's TED talk made me wonder about the way we tell our own story. Do we tell the story of the United States as a bunch of really good people held back by the corruption of our politicians? Do we tell our story as one of hopelessness: what can we do since our options, come voting time, are between the lesser of two (or three or four) evils? Is this the full story or the most helpful one?
Voting is not the only way we can impact our government. We can see needs in our local communities and find ways to address them. We can become informed about some of the complex issues facing our society and speak to those issues in helpful ways. We can take the time to help a neighbor.
Next time you get fed up with the politicians on TV, shut it off and then spend a few minutes thinking about your community and what you can do to make it a better place. Next time facebook is full of some idiot politician who said some idiotic thing, don't escape to pinterest (not that there is anything wrong with pinterest, I like it too). Don't flee into the sports channel. Rather explore world news to get perspective. Look at informative sites that help you understand the issues so you can better become part of the solutions. I have often wondered how different our country might be if the magazine racks at the checkout counters contained news magazines, newspapers, and even international news rather than magazines about what celebrity is fat or having an affair. Let's take time to be informed and to participate in our communities and maybe there will be a trickle up effect. If we govern ourselves on the local level with intelligence, efficiency, and compassion perhaps Washington will take notice and at least try to pretend that they can do it too.
We can make a difference. We have made a difference in the past, we can do it again. We can end extreme poverty. We can build a better government. I believe these things to be true. Let's get to it.