What do you do when the world is on fire?

IMG_0280What do you do when the world is on fire?

Of all the stories I’ve ever read, I never imagined living through this particular one. And the middle of the story is where all the darkness and confusion is, and it would be all too easy to give up in the face of overwhelming darkness. I mean, the odds look bad, the risk looks big, and how much can one person do anyway?

I feel the pain of these days in my body. The tensions I don’t realize I’m holding until I have muscle spasms, the tears that are readily available for almost anything because my heart feels like it’s breaking all the time.

I feel the fear of these days nipping at my heels. The violence rendered by some who have been radicalized and feel it is their right to steal the lives of others on a whim to spread terror and to dishearten those in the fight to protect the most vulnerable among us.

I feel it, dear ones, and I know you feel it too.

The world is on fire, literally and figuratively, and it all feels too big and it would be oh so easy to give up hope. Or for those of us with privilege, we could withdraw into our respective spheres and hope the fire doesn’t reach us. Hope that someone else will sort all this out and we and our families will be okay.

But I have news for you, beloved. This fire will leave no one untouched. For if we choose to shrink from it into our own spheres and hope for the best, let someone else sort it out, then the fire will have stolen part of our humanity from us. It will leave us a partial imprint of our former shells, a shallow soul who’s lost the empathy that keeps us all looking out for our neighbors.

So what do you do when the world is on fire?

Grab a bucket.

If we all grab some kind of bucket–no matter how small–every day, we can fight this fire together. I truly believe that.

Everyone’s bucket might look different, everyone’s capacity is different, and that is okay. The important part is that we all do something.

And don’t let yourselves get isolated. We have to hold onto each other now and in the days ahead for I’ve read too many of these stories and they tend to get worse before they get better. You cross Mordor and you still have to climb Mt. Doom. You’ve destroyed all the horcruxes only to discover there’s one more. You go back triumphant to the Shire and discover it’s still overrun by orcs that have to be driven out before you can truly live in peace.

But “even the smallest person can change the course of history,” and “all we have to decide what to do with the time that is given us.”

So grab a bucket, grab your people, and move forward, one step, one day at a time.

Power and Participation

#RubyWooPilgrimage
#RubyWooPilgrimage

In my talk for the Lights for Liberty vigil, I mentioned the feelings of helplessness that can often overtake us in the face of such overwhelming evil such as the current human rights violations being perpetrated in our name at our border. It’s easy to sink into a sense of complete impotence as an individual against such a large problem, or to turn away, overwhelmed and just try to pretend it’s not happening.

And I get it, I struggle frequently to find balance between staying aware and not looking away from the atrocities in this world and living my life, being present for my family, and finding joy in the good of creation that is still all around us. Between the human rights violations and the ecological disaster that we are poised on the precipice of, I feel like I can barely breathe some days.

But this is where engaging and participating actually comes into play as the ultimate win-win situation. You see, by engaging and finding something we can do to help the situation, we not only find a way to make the world better, we make ourselves better in the process. And in doing that, we also can find the space to breathe, to be less overwhelmed, to be present in our own lives and in the lives of those in our communities. I find this advice from Rabbi Ruttenberg to be absolutely essential in continuing to find energy to move forward.

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Pick something you can do, do it. Keep doing that week after week. Write your representatives, talk to your friends and call them into the movement, read books and articles and get a better education and understanding of current events, attend events, go to a protest, check on your local organizers and activists. If we all just keep doing what we can in the moment, it doesn’t really matter how “big” or how “small” our contributions are if we just keep at it. It all adds up to a big movement, with lots of various-sized parts, and it will make a difference.

The education and engagement factor is why I want to go on the RubyWoo Pilgrimage this fall. I want to be better equipped and educated so I can come back and share that with my community, and then we can go forward together and make a bigger difference collectively.

If you want to help get me on that bus, you can donate to my Facebook fundraiser here, and then follow this blog for updates as I go on that trip this fall!

Stand up. Show up. Speak up.

Lights for Liberty Vigil, Nashville, TN 7/12/19 Photo credit: Kaitie Gordon
Lights for Liberty Vigil, Nashville, TN 7/12/19 Photo credit: Kaitie Gordon

The following is the text from my presentation at the Lights for Liberty vigil in Nashville, TN on Friday, July 12, 2019. 

As we’ve watched the news cycles these past weeks, I, like many of you, have felt helpless in the face of abject cruelty and evil. These past few years in particular have been hard on each and every person here in various ways; I know I’ve been worn down, and exhausted, and feeling helpless in the face of this wave of darkness that has reached an apex since 2016.

But this darkness didn’t burst into being in 2016, it’s been here, since the foundation of our country, sometimes in big and obvious ways, but more recently, lurking in corners and beneath the surface, trying to hide from our sight, from the sight of white voters anyway, to push an agenda of racism and xenophobia into every aspect of our government. Crises like this one are the fruit of these day-to-day abuses.

And I’m sure I’m “preaching to the choir,” because here you all are, on a Friday night, standing up to be counted and to say to this administration “not on our watch!” “Not in our time!” And I hope that there is a huge turnout tonight across this nation to say to the powers as we look in their face and say, “no!” We say, “never again!”

I want to be part of a country that is a light to other nations, a country that opens its arms and welcomes the stranger, the immigrant, the poor, the oppressed. I want us to be a nation built on hope, and not fear. I want us to be a nation that operates out of a sense of abundance and not scarcity.

I want all of us tonight to move through our sorrow and frustration, and to take these torches up, to light the fire in our weary hearts and go out into our communities and call people into a vision of a country built on hope and abundance. Greatness does not come from fear. Governments that rise to power preaching fear of the other are toppled by those who believe that fear cannot and will not rule us.

And I still believe that if we go back to our communities and call our neighbors into a vision of hope and abundance that we can start to shift the conversation, shift the mindsets, gradually calling people to walk along with us into the nation that we want to be–a nation that truly is committed to liberty for all, justice for all, and where all can breathe the air of freedom, which first and foremost must mean freedom from fear, freedom from hatred, freedom from violence. And those are freedoms worth fighting for, a vision worth fighting for, and a country that all of us would love to live in.

Everyday resistance, lots of acts of resistance by everyday people, of various sizes all add up like many small streams coming together to be a mighty flood. Some of us got our feet wet at the first women’s march. Some of us have been marching for something since the 1960’s or so. The first time you come out to something like this requires a little extra bravery, so thank you all for showing up to be counted! Let’s keep going out and finding the brave thing to do this week, next week. Let us all commit to showing up, standing up, and speaking up from here to the voting boxes and the very doors of the detention centers until we have set these people free and made new laws and new policies that ensure this truly never ever happens again!