You Are Not Alone In This

When I look back on my experience of studying abroad, being exposed to poverty, and questioning my faith, I see a lot of anger, outbursts, and alienation. I attacked people who didn’t understand my newfound obsession with recycling, fair trade, even Cuba. I didn’t know how to communicate the burning burning burning urgency in my heart to DO SOMETHING about injustice.

I thought I was alone. No one knew what I was talking about. Everyone else was a materialistic hypocrite.

Turns out that was not quite healthy. Or true.

Ironically, my newly expanded global worldview led to an implosion of sorts. A narrowing of my world and my interests. Every relationship, every conversation, every action became solely about me: my thoughts, my anger, my doubts, my responsibility.

I thought it was up to me to single handedly save the world, which I quite obviously sucked at. I thought I was the first person to ever be confronted with this dilemma.

In the middle of this all out war on my friends’ and families’ sanity, I read a poem by Wendell Berry in his book, What are people for?, that actually made me feel quite foolish for wanting to do it all on my own. It was the kick in the pants that I needed and yet subsequently ignored as soon as I read it. (I told you I didn’t exercise the healthiest coping mechanisms). Here are a few lines that stood out to me:

“Seeing the work that is to be done, who can help wanting to be the one to do it?
But one is afraid that there will be no rest until the work is finished and the house is in order, the farm is in order, the town is in order, and all loved ones are well.
But it is pride that lies awake in the night with its desire and its grief.
To work at this work alone is to fail. There is no help for it. Loneliness is its failure.
It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure.
This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.”

I lived there, in that awkward pride, for a good couple of years, allowing my deep desire to serve and do good to divide and exclude instead of combine and include. I forgot I was supposed to be fighting against evil, oppression, alienation, and loneliness instead of my country, my social class, my friends, my family, myself.

When I began interning at a non profit called Plant With Purpose, where I now work, I was forced to remember that I was not alone in this fight against poverty.

Plant With Purpose has been around for over 25 years, partnering with the rural poor to overcome poverty. I know I latch onto some pretty unsound ideas from time to time (really, I really think I’m fat at 110 pounds?), but I would have had to have been monstrously dense or delusional to continue to believe that I had invented social justice and no one anywhere was doing anything of any value to end poverty.

It’s a lesson I’m still learning (not that I still think I invented social justice), but to work together. Learning that people are more important than ideologies. Learning that cooperation is more important than my beloved creativity. Learning that we are in this together.

Last night I watched the premiere of 58: The Film, a new campaign spearheaded by Compassion International to end extreme poverty. It’s a collaboration of ten Christian non profits working together to DO SOMETHING about poverty.

I admit I’m biased because I work at one of the ten organizations, but I think it’s pretty darn inspiring to see a group of organizations (competitors) joining together not to compete for donations or prove they have the best and most buzzwordy poverty alleviation strategies, but to motivate us all to reject not each other but our apathy. To embark on a radical rebellion against selfishness and competition when we’d rather rebel against our God-given responsibility to love our neighbors well.

It is the opposite of this awkward pride. It is an example of Wendell Berry’s “good work” that “finds the way between pride and despair.” By which, “we lose loneliness: we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us.”

Thank you to everyone in my life who has reached out their hand to me and ushered me out of loneliness, pride, and despair, and into the good work we were created to do.


2 thoughts on “You Are Not Alone In This

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love your heart Aly. You are such a sharp thinker and God is putting great depth and wisdom inside of you. I thank God for the burden he has placed on your heart and the opportunities he has given you to experience what he sees each day. Continue to engage in this fight, you are united with the heart of God and I believe that leads to great joy and blessing. Mark Hadley

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