“What do you see?” she asked. It was the end of winter and the forest was still mostly marked by decay. We looked around and began calling out: Dirt! Dead leaves! Old branches!
Our guide nodded, but then she gently brushed away all of the items we’d just named. Beneath the leaves and old sticks, there was a live tree root sticking out of the ground. We leaned in closer and saw a strip of bright moss and the tiniest plants growing out of the root.
Sitting in a circle on the ground, we talked about how even in the winter, there are still hints of spring. Even when there seems to be mostly death, there is still life. Then one of the members of our group said something that I think about a lot: Life doesn’t really let us stick with “either/or” or a this-then-that way of living. It’s all happening, all the time.
I think this is true for social justice.
Too often we think about social justice as something that we do at a certain time for a certain cause or even something done only by certain people. But social justice is woven into the fabric of each of our everyday lives. Social justice has to do with the big things – like volunteering and voting – and the little things – like showing kindness to people we pass on the street and being intentional about where and how we spend our money. In the Bible, Jesus never separates how he spends time with his friends from how he tries to make the world a better place. In the Old Testament, there are a lot of very good teachings about how to do social justice, but God also sums up all of those teachings into one: love God and love your neighbors. God teaches us that if love is in every decision we made, social justice will be too.
As a Christian, I believe that this is true . . . but I also believe that this is really, really (did I mention really?) hard. Loving my neighbor gets hard when I’m not sure how to do it, when my neighbor seems more like a stranger, or when I’m also thinking about my own needs.
That’s why, even though social justice is something that should be happening all the time, it’s important to find time to do something like what we did on that walk: We all need some space to stop, squat down, and take a closer look at our lives. We all need some space to ask, “How am I loving God and my neighbor every day?”
That’s what we’re doing at the Episcopal Mission Center this summer. Groups of middle and high school students will come from all over and spend a week in Philadelphia meeting new people, building relationships, learning about important social justice issues like poverty, reconnecting with God through worship and prayer, having fun, and working alongside our neighbors to ensure social justice is something everyone knows is happening all the time.
When you leave the EMC, you don’t forget or leave behind this experience; you take it with you and let it form how you live your everyday life back home.
And that’s why I am so excited to join the team at the Episcopal Mission Center! I was told I could spend some of this blog post talking about myself, but here’s really all you need to know about me: I am passionate about how we live our lives together. I love working through life’s issues and celebrating life’s awesomeness with all kinds of people. I think it’s important to find special space to reconnect with God. And, most of all, I think that this kind of living can bring real and important changes that transform our world.
So what are you doing this summer? Learn more about how you can join us at the Episcopal Mission Center. Let’s encounter life, together.