A Better Answer

This is a follow up to yesterday’s blog post, Solidaridad, which I suggest reading first. 


“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.” from Ann Voskamp’s masterpiece, One Thousand Gifts

This, this is the better answer to my haunting question: What does it mean to live in solidarity with poor?

“Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering.” 

How I wish someone had whispered this truth to me when I first opened my crowded closet; when I first swiped my ATM card for apricot face scrub and a new roll of floss at Target; when I first felt the summer sun warm up my parent’s patriotic front yard.

“It is joy that saves us…”

How I wish our study abroad discussions around solidarity had ventured beyond fair trade shopping and SUV bashing and into the fine art of learning to love our neighbors—poor or 1% or anywhere in between.

“Why would the world need more anger, more outrage?”

I mean, how are we supposed to love the poor if we don’t love ourselves? What kind of improved quality of life are we lobbying for if we can’t even recognize the God-like qualities in our suburban Christian friends?

I learned this lesson the hard way. Floundering and seething in an anger that quickly wore out its welcome.  In an anger that helped neither the poor nor the poor saps around me.

My first real step toward living in solidarity with the poor (on which I still have an immensely long way to go) was when I started to live in solidarity with myself. When I started to live in solidarity with my immediate neighbors. When I started to think that I was worth loving and that, maybe, the people in front of me—my Whole Foods Shopping, Invisible Children v-neck wearing peeps and my less well-versed in the rhetoric and fashion requirements of social justice friends and family alike—were worth loving too.

Solidarity began when I asked myself, like Ann Voskamp, Where can I bring life? Where can I choose hope?

How can I become the brave soul who focuses “on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small?” Where can I “discover joy even in the here and now?”

The surprising answer to the solidarity question is this: joy.

And in that joy comes a valuing of all human life and all of Creation, a heart that hopes, eyes that see the gifts, and lips that praise the Gifter.  This is the foundation of solidarity. This is the seed that blooms the hope to sustain a multitude of change agents bringing fullest Light to all the world.

Who wants to live the better answer?


P.S. I am still stubbornly passionate (although no longer belligerent) about reducing my injustice footprint and learning to live and act in ways that serve, support, and empower the poor.  I would love to talk shop with anyone interested in living more justly, sustainably, and joyfully.

But how, you ask?

You can read more of my thoughts in my post on fighting both first world apathy and third world poverty or dive into 7 Practical Tips (and delicious writing) from Jen Hatmaker, author of  “7 : An Experimental Mutiny AgainstExcess.”  Or check out Julie Clawson’s fabulous book, EverydayJustice. Or find out more about my favorite poverty alleviation non profit that I just so happen to work for: Plant With Purpose. 

2 thoughts on “A Better Answer

  1. Well, I was gonna suggestion 7 to you, but it looks like you're all over that already. Are you taking part in the challenge of the book?Also, if you Google "What's my slavery footprint" or something like that (Maybe "how many slaves do I own") it's pretty eye-opening.

  2. Aly Lewis says:

    I found Jen Hatmaker through you, so thanks for the suggestion! I'll look into the slavery footprint. Perhaps on a day when I'm heavily armed with some anti-guilt elixir.

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