The summer is over, well almost. I’m sitting on a balcony in Portland, Oregon still amazed and bewildered about what happened over the past two months. I blinked and my summer as a Peace Intern was ending with my last closing circle. Strangely enough, however, my real job as a Peace Intern is just beginning. Over the past two months, my life has been completely changed. The way I have looked at the world has completely changed, and more importantly, the role I expect myself to play in the world has completely changed. I have carried a message of love, compassion, and empathy with me all summer and I have challenged campers and counselors to recognize the injustices of our world through questions, stories and discussions. Truthfully, I feel like I can say I have accomplished a lot, but I know that this summer was just the first step on a long road in finding peace and justice in the world. I’ve left myself no choice but to continue to challenge others, ask questions, and engage in discussions. Otherwise, I’d be wasting the opportunity and challenge I was blessed with these past two months.
For the last two months I’ve been at camp, which to me is the most loving, accepting, and inclusive environment I’ll ever find myself in. The camp setting is a perfect setting for challenging others to look at the world differently because it is there that we are most open to new experiences and thoughts. Now, it is back to the real world where the audience may not be as willing to listen. So for me, the real challenge is ahead of me. This summer was practice in a lot of ways, a warm up for the real task at hand, and all along the way I have been building a team to travel this journey with me (if you’re reading this, you’ve been drafted for my team). I will not settle for taking one step and stopping, but I want to continue on this path of peacemaking and seeking out justice in the world. I will not allow myself to be a hypocrite and say that I love God and ignore the fact that hell is all around me. If I am to truly say that I am a Disciple of Christ, peace and justice must be central to who I am. This summer, the conversation was started on what it means to have responsibility in the world, but the conversation doesn’t end here. Now the conversation has to begin in the world where acceptance isn’t as easy to come by and where unconditional love is desperately needed. We live in a world where hate has become the norm, but like Nelson Mandela, I don’t believe anyone is “born hating another person because of the color of their skin or their background or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, the can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Therefore, I am accepting the wonderful challenge of teaching myself and others to love.
So, it’s a long road, and I refuse to be lonely on it, thus I ask for you to come with me knowing that finding peace and justice in the world will be uncomfortable and going against the tide will be hard. I ask you to join me even though there are millions of questions to be answered (that probably never will be), even though our emotions will be exhausted, and even though often times we will feel hopeless. I ask you to join me because we have a responsibility to each other, to love one another, appreciate one another, respect one another, and understand one another. I won’t make a difference alone, so I need you to come with me to share the inclusive love of Jesus to the world, open our minds and hearts to being emphatic, and embrace every opportunity that we can to experience the world so that we may learn to love each other despite our differences. Let us not settle for our own personal comfort or accept what has become the norm, but let’s cause a little trouble like that troublemaker from Nazareth two thousand years ago. It’s not going to be comfortable or easy, but isn’t that what makes an adventure worthwhile?
At one point this summer I came to the realization that the little things that we do in life make the biggest differences. Sometimes, the change has to start with ourselves. Let the questions continue to challenge us and the conversation continue to engage us, but may we never get too comfortable and may we never stop changing. There is a lot of work to be done, so let’s start small and see what happens.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who? To be continued….