Monday, May 9, 2011

Twelve Million Dollars for Haiti and Other Tales of Social Justice

I don't have as much time to write this morning as I thought I would, so I'll have a longer post on Synod Assembly tomorrow. 

But I want to give everyone this nugget of hope.  Far too often we hear grim news about declining numbers in our churches, and it's important to realize the good that we can do as collective people.

During Synod Assembly, I found out that the ELCA (that's the national Lutheran group that I belong to) has raised 12 million dollars for Haiti since the earthquake.  Twelve million dollars!  That's during a time of worldwide economic collapse and turmoil of other sorts inside the church that's led to less money for the national organization.  But still, we've raised 12 million dollars.

I also found out that in the first hour after the earthquake in Haiti, the State Department reached out to our Synod's branch of Lutheran Social Services, because we have such a reputation for good work.  That group mobilized people to meet injured Haitians and their families at airports, to transport them to hospitals, and arranged for housing and translators and all the other things needed.

So, if anyone tells you of the futility of being part of a social justice organization like a church, refute them with facts like those above.  If anyone tells you that you can't make a difference, you can.  You can donate money.  You can help in any number of ways.

Of course, you should be careful.  You might find yourself like a woman who was introduced to the Assembly because she was retiring.  She's probably done more than any other Florida Lutheran to help refugees.  Not only has she been head of the group that arranges housing, food, jobs and all the other things that refugees need, but she's often been the first place that they stay after the airport.  Her guest room has been occupied by refugees more often than it's been empty.

So, you can make a difference as an individual or as part of a group.  It's not futile.  And while we can't save everyone (and remember, that's God's job), we can save lots of folks.  We can be the Harriet Tubmans of our time period.

And even if we have no money, because we're barely holding together our own families, we can make it easier for the immigrant.  We can smile at the strangers in our land.  If we do nothing else, we can do that.  We all understand a smile.  You'd want someone to smile at you, if you had been forced to flee your homeland, if you had left behind loved ones because you were the able-bodied one who could go abroad to seek work, if you had fled war or natural disaster or any of the other events that make people leave everything they've known and loved.

There's a spiritual practice we could all do:  smile.  We're all fighting hard battles on some level.  We all could use the kindness of a smile.

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