[This post could just have easily been titled “On How to Alienate Friends and Family after an Intense and Prolonged Cross-Cultural Poverty Experience.” Enjoy. ]
|My parent’s adorable house.|
The first time my mom attempted to hang an American Flag in front of her white picket fence, I screamed about the injustices those white, spotless stars concealed, I alluded to the blood of Guatemalans, Sandinistas, and why-we’re-at-it Iraqis stacked red on top of white on top of red until both of our eyes spilled raw, blue tears.
|Not harsh at all…|
How do we live and act in solidarity with the poor?
When I returned, this was the question festering on my heart.
I cringed at my friends’ discarded Starbucks cups, their iPods, laptops, and multiple pairs of Sevens jeans.
My first day back at school, we went to the mall. And, yes, I should have seen it coming. As I sat on the velvet covered bench in the GAP fitting room watching my friend model jean skirt after jean skirt, she transformed from my bouncy, enthusiastic, well-meaning friend into a materialistic, selfish princess that I could barely even stand to look at. I’d rant about the church’s hypocrisy and judgment, then judge my friends and family with evident disgust, harsher than any Bible-thumper I’d ever seen. I was a new kind of judgmental Christian, tolerant of anyone and anything except for white, middle class American Christians.
My immediate answer to the solidarity question was this: to reduce my injustice footprint and judge everyone else who didn’t.
I was angry, but that was all that was different. I bought clothes, angrily. I went to church, angrily. I drove my car, angrily. I used my iPod and laptop, angrily.
I thought solidarity with the poor meant that I wasn’t allowed to be happy. That I wasn’t allowed to feel blessed or thankful. That I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge the gifts so freely given to me. I thought my happiness negated their pain. I thought guilt was the only appropriate and all-consuming response to poverty.
But it wasn’t just malls and Mochachinos and materialism that I was rejecting; I was rejecting joy. I was rejecting relationship. I was rejecting God and growth and a whole world of opportunity and connection and possibility.
And I judged everyone who wasn’t angry with me.
Today, nearly six years later, I’m pained by how I acted. It’s not the anger that I grieve. I am grateful for a heart that is discontent with the status quo and rages against injustice. What I am sorry for are the times I raged against my parents, my friends, and my classmates in my attempts at “solidarity with the poor.”
I am sorry for the times the anger turned hurtful, attacking, accusing, malicious.
I am sorry to the people I judged. I am sorry to the friends I alienated. I am sorry to the parents I lashed out at. (And mom, I am sorry for ever bringing up Cuba.)
There is a better answer to this question of solidarity that for me turned so bitter. Check back tomorrow to find out what I discovered about living and acting in solidarity with the poor. (How’s that for suspense?)