I have just read an really inspirational article by Danielle Strickland, author of A Beautiful Mess, that got me thinking. Danielle is launching a social justice strategy in her role as a Canadian Salvation Army officer, so she has thought some things through.
Mostly we do mercy well. Mercy, an act of kindness or compassion, makes us feel good. It is in us to give, sometimes it can push us past our comfort zone but often it is in our power to be merciful. I believe our Charity Rally4Life is based upon mercy. We are doing what we can to redistribute some of our wealth and resources, feeling compassion for those in need, and although it can be tiring and we have to make some sacrifice it is never unpleasant. In fact it is always rewarding.
Justice goes deeper. To bring justice Danielle suggests we have to look at our own habits, our economics and our policies. She likens life to a swimming pool, it is fun to splash about in the shallow end but once we go deeper it takes more risk, it is harder to keep afloat and we have to keep kicking. To bring about real change we have to keep kicking.
We know families in Africa have no access to safe drinking water, so we run marathons, have bake sales, give our money to build a well. But WHY do families not have safe water when we use about 250 litres per person a day in Canada with our luxury bathrooms, multiple appliances and general lack of awareness of global water issues.
By my calculations it would cost $56 billion to provide access to clean, safe water to each person on the planet. It might sound like a lot of money, actually it doesn’t even really sound like a lot of money these days and the United States annual military budget is ten times higher than that. However globally we have to have the political will to make it happen. We have certainly made progress, the MDG’s have shown us that as they have tracked numbers. But do we take shorter showers, spend less on frivolous things, do what we can to take care of our planet. Probably not.
I think it is probably mostly a case of out of sight out of mind. Many people also feel helpless, that as an individual they won’t make much of a difference. Think of it this way, if one person only helped one other person it still makes a difference to both people. So if we feel powerless and that justice and fairness is out of our control, just show a little mercy and things can change. And if your feelings go deeper than that and you feel angry about the injustice then start kicking.