|From the Executive Director|
In early November I was privileged to take part with other ministers and seminarians in the College of Social Justice’s Border Justice program. The program is a collaboration with Border Links in Tucson, Arizona and provided a week-long experience which gave us a peek into the immigration realities for those coming into Arizona from Mexico. We visited three memorial sites in the desert where we dodged cacti plants and imagined how terrifying and disorienting it would be to cross the desert lost, hungry and afraid. We went to Nogales, Mexico and saw where a 16 year old had been gunned down by border patrol agents. We met with local organizations in Tucson who are advocating and fighting for justice and compassion for those fleeing Mexico. And we sat in a courtroom where refugees were sent to prison for the “crime” of coming to our country.
The week was powerful and we ended it with a worship service where we were invited to take a rock from the desert and to lift up something we would return home with from the experience. I, like I suspect you, have led or taken part in many rituals where we take something - a rock, a twig, a candle - to remind or invite us into a deeper lever of awareness, maybe appreciation, for something meaningful and profound. As I sat in silence contemplating what I would decide to hold up and share with the group about the week I realized I needed to do something different.
Instead of taking a rock that would mean something in the moment and that I would throw on my altar at home and mainly forget, I decided to take the rock and put it in my shoe. I shared with the group that I hoped the rock would remind me of my privilege and not forget those struggling and fighting for so much of what I take for granted. All day as I walked, actually limped, through airports and on planes as I returned home, I would forget that I had a rock in my shoe. And then I would remember. I grumbled to myself as I ran through Midway airport in Chicago rushing to catch my plane.
The rock is still in my shoe and not on my altar. Its meaning has grown beyond the experience I had in Arizona and Mexico. There is a lot to be uncomfortable with in the world these days. I guess there always is. People suffering, people despairing, people worrying, people hurting and being killed. Sometimes it’s easy to forget or, perhaps more accurately, turn away. Turn away to busy-ness, or addiction, or blissful ignorance. Among the many promises and covenants I made when I became a minister - to myself and/or others - was to turn towards more than turn away. Over the years I sometimes have forgotten. But the rock in my shoe has a way of reminding me that other spiritual practices have not.
In these days of holiday madness and joy I wish you the best of the season - love, gratitude, happiness and peace - knowing that there will be sadness, grief and pain as well. Your lives and ministries remind me of what is possible, even in the midst of uncomfortableness. Sometimes a rock is much more than a challenge or a nuisance. It is what we cling to when the world makes the least sense. May we celebrate and embrace all the rocks in our shoes and our lives as we prepare for another year.