A Bias towards Caring
Today, the international movement for peace and the abolition of war, is celebrating the United Nation’s “Peace Day”, a day dedicated to the advancement of disarmament, nonviolence, and peace education. As I reflect on the meaning of this day, and the vast number of courageous people who do everything they can to push the world a little bit closer towards global oneness, I can not help but wonder about the deep meaning of this kind of work?
For many of us, we engage in daily endeavors that in the back of our minds we hope produce outcomes where people are noticeably changed. But any seasoned activist or community organizer can tell you right away that if you enter into activism for immediate “results” and regular “success”, you will not last long. We daily deal with the reality that humanity is complicated and the struggle to establish peace with justice is a daily experiment in trying to help people realize that things do not have to be as complicated as we are making them. I know for myself, there are days where I have to stop and breathe just to keep from losing my grip on things because when you dare to face the ugliness of humanity, sometimes your knees start to tremble or your soul starts to break. Yet, many of us continue to press on.
Often, I ask myself questions like “what do I mean when I say justice” or “why do people make assertions that racism is not a problem anyone”, and the best answer I can give myself is that some folks just do not care. There are people who care more about money, degrees, entrepreneurial success, and how many likes or retweets they have on social media but none of these individuals care to invest into caring about homelessness, the school to prison pipeline, the abuse of workers, or the invasion of privacy through government spying. Despite the rise of movements like the movement for black lives, the occupation of standing rock, and the increase visibility of injustice at the border or the rise of police murdering queer/trans people of color, the mainstream still perpetuate the belief that white is right, climate change is a myth, and majority of cops are good guys.
Due to the reality that we are living in a world where folks are actively disregarding the way things truly are, more people and the planet are being driven towards madness. So, on this peace day, what is our response?
Our role is people who believe in peace, who want peace, and who make peace is to prioritize the lives/experiences of people from targeted communities. When we say that we believe in nonviolence, what we need to be clear that what we are saying is that we intentionally choose to embody a deep bias towards caring for targeted people, for the pursuits of peace, and for our compromised planet. To illustrate what I mean by having a “bias towards caring”, I think a story might help.
Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan Priest and Chaplain to the New York City Fire Department who died during the infamous 9/11 attack, is a hero of mine because there is a story told of him that really resonates with me. It was said that during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Fr. Mychal was one of very few religious leaders who would go and visit people with HIV/AIDS. He would go to hospitals and it was said that many would kick him out because so many of the men in the hospitals were hurt by religious folks. Despite Fr. Mychal wanting to just offer some compassion, many people asked him not to come back. Yet, Mychal was so moved to want to do something to alleviate the pain and bring some inner peace that he went away to pray for a bit. When Fr. Mychal went back to the hospital, instead of trying to talk about faith or God, he took a bottle of holy oil and began to massage the feet of the men he ministered to, obviously, inspired by the story of the woman washing the feet of Jesus. While Fr. Mychal was massaging the feet with oil he would have a conversation in order to help bring a sense of comfort to a person who was dying a very sad death.
I love this story because it illustrates the ability to creatively connect with the human spirit when we choose to care for the most vulnerable. But let me also leave with you a point about caring that is a little more direct. Having a bias towards caring does not mean that you are to be “charitable” but rather, having a bias towards caring means that you strive to build solidarity with others. Solidarity calls us to bridge the gap between service provider and service recipient, displaying the truth that in the end, we have to stand in the way of all those things or people who seek to justify oppression. Solidarity calls us to draw deep on our courage so that we can be bold when in the public square and shout loud, black lives matter! The earth matters! Stop separating families! End all war! This is what it means to have a bias towards caring.
Caring motivates us to speak inconvenient truths, to lift up the poor, and put our bodies in the way of those who try to hurt our fellow human beings or to shut down business as usual until targeted communities are listened to. Choosing to have a bias towards caring means that peace is always possible, racism will come to an end, war will be abolished, and the earth will be honored as sacred.
Draw deep on your courage friends, get out there into public and show others that you care.