I was just thinking about Keri’s post over on Pop Parables regarding the concept of “slacktivism” in light of the Kony 2012 social media frenzy. Keri explored our tendency to want to make a difference without actually doing anything that does.
It reminded me that many of us do the same thing with travel. Aspirationally, we want to get on a plane and solve the world’s problems directly. But then, little details like finances, work/school commitments or family arise and we settle for signing petitions and wearing bracelets. We write checks and tell our friends about the causes we care about and we figure that’s about all we can realistically do.
But is it?
Most of the time, we don’t engage in helping others because we tell ourselves we don’t have time (c’mon, be honest, you know you’ve used that line as much as I have) or we don’t know how. But opportunities to serve in meaningful ways lie all around us.
If we’ll see them.
Last month, for example, I spent a Saturday with a group of youth from our church distributing food to low-income households in our community. As we went door to door at an apartment building with our bags of food, we would knock. Some doors remained closed, the residents either absent or unresponsive.
Yet for those who did open their doors, they revealed the interiors, places of daily life. Lives very different…yet surprisingly very much like my own.
I didn’t have to travel overseas to understand some of our deep similarities such as the desire to create a living space that is both functional and special, reflecting the unique personalities of the residents. But I did have to be there.
I had to show up, engaging people not in a public setting but in their very homes to comprehend our similarities on a level that cuts through my presuppositions and stereotypes. I had to cross borders I rarely think I’ve erected to realize how stupid yet formidable such borders are.
I’ve driven by these same apartments hundreds of times without knowing (or if I’m honest, even wanting to know) the lives lived there. But that is all different now, or so I hope, because having taking even this one first step to reach out to people I don’t know, I realize that I will be back. I will make the trip that in miles is minimal but in impact, well, who can say?
These doorways are not my destination. They are only a start, a small step in the journey toward deeper relationships. If I don’t follow up, I’m doing no more – perhaps even less – than those who merely text in their support for Kony 2012.
The most obvious realization – that has, to this point been not obvious at all – is this: these people and I all live in the same town. They are, in every sense, my neighbors.
And even though I recognize that I don’t really know the people there that much better than I did before, there is one tremendous difference.
I now know that I can.
How about you? Crossed any borders lately in your own home town? Found any ways to make a difference locally?