By Mary Bridges, Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain
Thirty years ago I was invited to join a group of Lutheran women from all over the United States. Our purpose was to study issues involving “Peace with Justice.” I didn’t have a clue what that would involve or even what it meant. All I knew is I would be spending a week in Phoenix during the coldest part of winter.
The scripture that guided this group was Micah 6:8, which is one of the most popular verses among both Jews and Christians promoting social justice. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
During my time with this group I visited homeless shelters, safe houses for abused women and children, and Humboldt Park in Chicago, which at that time had more gang-related violence and murders than anywhere in the city. During this experience I began to look at our world through a different lens and listen to news in a new way. In 1992, I traveled to the Middle East and spent a month in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Here I experienced a never-ending war, and because of my time there with the Palestinian Christians, I underwent extreme security measures at the Tel Aviv airport when returning home. After an exhaustive search I was found to be bomb free and allowed to board my airplane.
In my quest to learn more, I learned how important it was to become an advocate and a voice for those who had no voice. I’m sure you have all heard people say, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” I think this story answers this question:
“‘Tell me the weight of a snowflake,’ a coal mouse asked a wild dove. ’Nothing more than nothing,’ the dove answered. ’In that case I must tell you a marvelous story,’ the coal mouse said. ‘I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow. Not heavily, not in a raging blizzard. No, just like in a dream, without any violence at all. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,471,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing, as you say — the branch broke off.’ Having said that, the coal mouse ran away. The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace, thought about the story for a while. Finally, she said to herself, ‘Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.'” — Source unknown
Metaphorically, welfare is like giving Band-Aids to people after they’ve had a trauma. Justice is seeking to prevent those traumas from happening in the first place. And over the years, many people have leaned toward each of those two things. People like Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa excelled in personal acts of charity and mercy, and people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and Martin Luther King Jr. focused on prophetic calls for social justice and transformation.
I am still learning how to help others and advocate for those who have no voice, or for those whose voice isn’t being heard. I’m blessed to be part of the Social Services department here at Presbyterian Manor, and I am still learning much from our RaShelle Hensley, who is an amazing, caring social worker. I believe that those words from Micah were the first written job description for social workers. But we can’t wait for others to do all the work. We are called to be that “one snowflake” that changes our world.
This is your job description, too: To love KINDNESS, to do JUSTICE, and to walk HUMBLY with your God.