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Friday, June 28, 2013

Deciding How Best You Can Help Others

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you. 
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 
There comes a time in your life when you decide you really want to make a difference in this troubled world, you want to help. Then, you can easily become overwhelmed with all the possibilities. You freeze. You do nothing. You become frustrated and then cynical and you lose hope. Don't let that happen to you. Here are some suggestions excerpted from a recent sermon of mine. The sermon is entitled "That's Not Fair" and is based on the Bible verses: 1 Kings 21:1-21 (NRSV).

Actually, it is not all that hard to find places and people who need our fairness, our voices, and our actions on their behalf. There are people suffering under unfair circumstances everywhere. So, the question is, where will we focus our efforts? To answer that, each of us can ask ourselves, what kinds of unfairness, what sorts of injustice, really makes our blood boil. One of my seminary professors asked that question, stating a good pastor needed to be really mad about some unfairness in the world. He was much surprised by the number of unfair, unjust issues these students were angry about. Once you can settle for yourself on one issue that really makes your blood boil, you can start to work in small ways to alleviate that unfairness on the individual level. The same goes for me.

For example, there are over 50 million Americans who live in “food insecure” households. That means over 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children don’t get enough to eat and are not sure where their next meal will come from in this powerful nation. Here are two personal examples. In California in 2011, a real estate agent and his wife, owning their own company, went from making $300,000 a year to $30,000 a year when the housing bubble burst. They are often hungry. A small town sheriff admits that on his salary he wouldn’t get nearly enough to eat if it were not for a food bank run by a local church. If that situation makes you angry, volunteer to help at a food bank, make donations, advocate for a fairer system, or grow some extra food for Phil-abundance if you are blessed with a green thumb.

Kimberly McOwen Yim is infuriated by slavery in America among immigrant labor and domestic help. She states, “Told they will have good-paying jobs when they arrive in the United States, thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal, get tricked into forced labor annually. Traffickers often deceive these people by offering half-truths, saying the individual will work at a restaurant or in a hotel. Once these people begin working, they are held captive either through never-ending debt or simple physical immobility.” Kimberly founded Abolitionist Mamas in San Clemente, California, to start working against this wicked form of unfairness in her state. Since then she’s worked with Women Who Stand, an advocacy group affiliated with World Relief and has written the book Refuse to Do Nothing, which teaches readers where to look for possible modern-day slaves in their own communities, what the signs are of an enslaved person, and how to take action. The last part is very simple. If you suspect someone is enslaved, you call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You can be a modern day abolitionist and stand for God’s justice with just a little education and a phone number. You think it can’t happen in your area. However, when I was growing up, we lived in McLean, Virginia, surrounded by government workers, military professionals, and UN members. Not long ago, running down the street in a panic, a young woman was picked up by the police, terrified she would be caught by the family who had enslaved her. They were well-to-do and had brought her to America from overseas under false pretenses, forcing her to work as their personal household servant.

As followers of God, we are all called to be fair to others, to everyone, as each person is a beloved child of God. We are called to be fierce in our efforts to remedy unfairness wherever we find it, however God has gifted us to do so. Our differences in temperament, gifts, and personalities don’t matter in this issue. The prophets came in all sizes and personalities. God can work with anyone and through anyone to help bring more fairness into this troubled world. God is calling for our help. Are we ready to respond? Are we ready to stand up, say “That’s not fair,” and do something about it?

Back from the sermon, let me add this. Whether you are a person of faith or not, you can make a powerful difference to those suffering under one form of unfairness or another in this world. Just follow the "what makes your blood boil" model and find your place to pitch in.

These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. 
~Abraham Lincoln 

(Thanks for the quick access to great quotes!) 

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