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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The "God-Shaped Hole"

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Growing up in the church, I always heard that every person had a "God-shaped hole" and that we were always looking to fill it. I was taught that we tried to fill it with material things, romantic relationships, drugs & alcohol, money, whatever, but that really only God could fill that empty space. We can only be whole, healthy and happy when we let God fill us up.

And I still believe this is true to some extent. But if I'm really honest, God alone doesn't always fill my "God-shaped hole."  And it hasn't always felt safe to share that with people of faith.

You see, when I admit that God alone doesn't fill me up and make my life complete it feels like a failure. Maybe my faith isn't strong enough. I must be doing something wrong. I was never taught what to do if God alone wasn't enough for me.  Maybe, I thought, I shouldn't admit that in church, especially since my husband's a pastor. For a long time, I didn't feel like I could be truly myself in a faith setting - I had too many different ideas, my experiences didn't always line up with what I thought everyone else was saying. I couldn't honestly say that God alone was enough.

I honestly regret all the years I kept silent in church. I wish I had been a bit braver then. We are all figuring out our own journeys of faith, and I am certain I'm not alone when I feel like I don't always fit in with people of faith, or that my faith experience doesn't match the mainstream.

This week, I had coffee with a friend who is working to get out of homelessness. And we were talking about God. He loves God. And he has 15 years clean & sober. But he says his faith doesn't quite make him happy and whole and make his life complete. "I need a network," he says, "I need good positive people in my life who love me."

My friend told me how God alone doesn't fill him up, but that he has found that God gives him some incredible ways to fill in the gaps: service work through NA, having positive, supportive people in his life.  So basically, loving others and being loved by others.

I started writing a blog post earlier this week and I actually wrote the words, "I have everything I could possibly want. Sometimes I don't know how I got the amazing life I have." And then something we had been really hoping and praying for didn't work out. We got some really disappointing news. And I let it ruin two days for me. I needed to sulk and be disappointed.  I cried and yelled at the kids over nothing.  And in those two days, God alone didn't fill up that "God-shaped hole."

But then I started reaching out to friends and to my husband. I was reminded of the ways I see my friends love each other and our community. I have some fun projects to do for a friend this weekend who is going through a tough time.  And I started to fill up again.

I'm reading the book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (if you are a Bible-reader, this is a wonderful book!).  One of the things the author, Scot McKnight, says is that no matter how we interpret all the intricacies of the Bible, the one thing our study of the Bible should do is make us love others. Wow. No matter what we agree or disagree on over all the things the Bible could possibly say, the one mega-story, the way the Bible should change us most is that it makes us love others. The point of the Gospel isn't just that individuals are reconciled back to God... the point is that we are all reconciled back to God AND to each other.  Being part of the redemption story means connecting to others.  It's not just about me & God. It's about me, God, and all the people God loves.

So maybe it's okay that, for me, God alone doesn't entirely fill up that hole.  Maybe it's not supposed to work that day. The gospel changes my life because it creates in me a desire to reach out and love others (and let myself be loved by others) in order to be healthy and whole. I don't always get to know what the next step is and my family has sacrificed a good bit of security in order to live out our faith the way we think we need to.  But of this I'm certain: I'm not lacking faith... I'm finding it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Justin Bieber is a Criminal... and other things that happened this week.

My 1st grader went on a field trip yesterday and I wasn't able to drive. We don't have buses at our school so she drove with another mom. And it's always funny to hear how it goes when your kids have spent some time in a different environment. 

This morning in the car:
Allyn: Mom, my favorite singer is Selena Gomez.
Me: It is? Great! What does she sing?
Allyn: (some answer - I have no idea) and she used to love Justin Bieber.
Me: She did? Well that's nice. She doesn't love him anymore?
Allyn: No. He went out with some other girl and made her cry on stage!
Me: Wow. That doesn't sound very nice. 
Riley: It's okay. He's a criminal anyway. She's better off without him.

This whole exchange was hilarious because I'm generally clueless about pop culture (I'm honestly not sure who Selena Gomez is) But here was that word again: Criminal.

I'm not really in the business of defending Justin Bieber, but I explained to the kids that sometimes we don't make good choices. And if we break the law, we will get in trouble for it. And yes, maybe if Justin Bieber broke the law, in some ways that makes him a criminal... but I bet that isn't all of who he is. Maybe he's a nice friend or good at math (although clearly not a great boyfriend... ha!). I told them that I've gotten speeding tickets, which is breaking the law. So if that's all you knew about me, you could call me a criminal too. And I'm sure glad that people know more about me than just the mistakes I've made.

It's so easy to use negative labels for other people based on one aspect of their lives.  Or worse, using negative labels for entire groups of people based on one person in that group. Just this morning, I overheard an exchange in the locker room at the gym. A woman had made an offensive (racist, I think) comment and the housekeeper had heard it. She was crying. To her credit, the woman who made the remark was apologizing, but her apology rang hollow for me. "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings," she said. "But....." and went on to explain that "those people" take advantage of the system and how "if you give homeless people money, you just don't know where it's going to go."

Whenever we label someone based on only one aspect of their lives or when we label an entire group based on one member of that group's negative behavior, we cause damage. That was a real person crying in the locker room this morning. A real person hurting because of a generalized statement made about "others."

Here's the thing: there will always be people who take advantage of the system. Some of our wealthiest citizens take advantage of tax loopholes and use their wealth to lobby for more opportunities to increase their bank accounts.  Some of our citizens who need public assistance might spend the money in ways that you or I wouldn't consider wise. People in both groups likely have had brushes with the law and criminal records.  However, in our culture, we are very quick to assign negative labels to people who are struggling. We are quick to talk about "those people" and assume that because one person makes a poor choice, they all do.

And just as there will always be those who take advantage of the system, there will also always be those who don't.  Wealthy individuals who use their wealth for good instead of using it to arrange ways to get more.  People in poverty who are working hard to make life different for themselves. I've met homeless folks who have worked hard to help one another. Just this morning I did an intake at our day resource center with an individual and when I told her I was a volunteer she said, "I'd love to come help out here!"

So we have a choice. We can stick with the negative labels. We can see people in the light of their mistakes, their poor choices. Or worse, see them in the light of someone else's mistake who just happens to be of the same race or socioeconomic status. But that sure sounds like picking hatefulness to me.  Or we can choose to see people for who they are. And I don't know who you are until I get to know you.  Instead of making sweeping statements about people groups or deciding someone is a "criminal," maybe we could withhold our judgment until we get to know them a little better.

So, Justin Bieber, we owe you an apology. Until we get to know you better, we won't be calling you a criminal in our house.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jesus came for the Bad Guys. Jesus came for us.

Thugs. Criminals. Drug Dealers. Bad Guys.

These are words I've seen and heard a lot lately. You probably have too. Or maybe you've said or written them lately. Or thought them.

I actually spend a good amount of time with Thugs, Criminals, Drug Dealers and Bad Guys. You see, I work on an inpatient Behavioral Health unit in a hospital. Many of my patients are there to detox off of drugs.  And I volunteer at our local day resource center for the homeless.  Many of the folks I see there have some criminal histories or drug backgrounds too.

So when I see those labels, I have faces that go along with them. Faces of people who have been dealt some very difficult cards in life. Faces of people who have made some poor choices. Faces of people who have not been given many choices. Faces of people who, given the opportunity, would give anything to turn things around. Faces of good people who have crippling addictions.

Thugs. Criminals. Drug Dealers. Bad Guys.

But I know them as Moms. Dads. Big Smilers. Good Huggers. Hard Workers. Volunteers. Overcomers.

Just this week I spent a few hours with a gentleman who has not been out of prison long. I think he spent 15 years or so in prison. "A terrible, violent place," he told me. A place where he had to "do what I had to do sometimes just to protect myself." He told me of times in his life when he certainly could have been called a Thug. A Criminal. A Drug Dealer. A Bad Guy.

I helped him with some paperwork. He wants to get back on his feet. His plans are to stay out of prison. And although he has some serious medical issues and pain, he walked me to the door and held the door for me when I left the building. And then walked me all the way to my car and insisted on opening my car door for me.  He told me that when he's back on his feet, he's going to take me out for coffee.

Thug. Criminal. Drug Dealer. Bad Guy.

Those are easy labels. But unless we've walked in someone else's shoes, unless we've faced the same hardships, the same situations, we really need to stop and consider if it's worth it to stick those labels on people. I have yet to see a situation in which labeling someone has made anything better.

People are complicated. Our history is complicated. But we can put down our labels when we see each other as equals.  Maybe I was able to help that gentleman with his paperwork, but I am no better than he. Our lives are so different, but for a few hours, we worked together on a task as peers.  When we stop categorizing each other and relate to each other as humans, it's awfully hard to get labels to stick.

Jesus came for the Bad Guys. He came for the Criminals, for the Thugs, for the Drug Dealers. He came for us.  God loves every single one of us.  And if we love him, it shouldn't be that hard for us to love the people he loves.  It works like this: we are so solidly filled with love that it overflows. That's why it's easy to love others - it's not our love in the first place. I don't have to manufacture love for others out of thin air. I just use the love of Christ - the love I've been given in spades.

And then we can use a much better label: Friend.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do you know all these names?

Facebook is a tricky place. For the longest time, I tried to keep my posts happy and lighthearted with pictures of the kids and nice things. And most of the time, I try to stick to that. But with so much going on around us, sometimes I do want to use social media to support a cause or highlight an issue.

So yesterday, after praying all day long for Baltimore. For the peaceful protesters, for the police, for the rioters, for the innocent bystanders... I posted this:

I join with all those who voice sadness and anger over the riots in Baltimore. But I also wish that we would raise those same voices when we hear about yet another Black man mistreated or killed by police. Riots are not the answer, clearly. But it is beyond time for us to listen. The vast majority who protested in Baltimore were there in peace... I pray their voices aren't drowned out. Praying for Baltimore. Praying for peace. Praying for all of us.

I actually thought very hard about my wording. I am not anti-police. I know some wonderful police officers and their families and I keep thinking about how scary it must be to be a police officer or the spouse of a police officer in Baltimore right now. They are very much in my prayers.

Of course riots are not the answer. Violence detracts from the issue.  It appears that it was three gangs (NOT the protesters) that were doing all of the rioting in Baltimore.  What I was seeing on my Facebook feed were comments about the riots - how senseless they are, how it made people angry, how they were sad and worried for Baltimore. And I agree with them. I join my voice with theirs.

But what I hope for is this: that we would also acknowledge how senseless it is when another Black man has been killed by the police, how it makes us angry, how it makes us sad and worried for the Black community and for the Black males in our lives.  And then again when the officer isn't held responsible for his actions - how it makes us angry to see justice not served, how it makes us sad and worried for our community at large.  It hurts my heart that I don't hear that as readily when those incidents happen. We need to realize that the riots are about kids feeling like the system has failed them, people feeling as if they have no options.

And it occurs to me that many people don't know when it happens. I think one definition of White Privilege is the ability to live your every day life and not have to know about all this stuff. I didn't realize I had that White Privilege until I lost it: I am the mother of a Black son. He's going to grow up to be a Black man. To some people, he will look like a "Scary Black Man." Especially at night, especially if he's dressed a certain way.  My sweet sweet baby boy WILL be a threat to someone because of the color of his skin.

So in case you aren't sure about all that's been going on. Or maybe you think it's just a few isolated incidents. I want to highlight a few.

Trayvon Martin - February 2012. We all know his story, I think. He was 17. He wasn't killed by police but it was unsettling to me that the man who killed him was not held accountable for his actions. And in addition, the way the whole thing was handled in the media was just awful: unfavorable pictures and tweets of his were widely circulated, taken from his FB and Twitter. But also from his FB and Twitter that were NOT shared were pictures of him on his birthday with his parent, and messages and tweets about SATs and studying.

Jonathan Ferrell - September 2013. He was 24. This young man was in car accident in Charlotte and, shaken, was looking for help. He was shot by police 10 times as he was trying to get help. The police officer was not held responsible.

Eric Garner - July 2014. He was 43. Apparently he had just broken up a fight and police approached him. He had a long history of arrests and some claims of having been abused by police in the past.  There's video in which he proclaims that he isn't doing anything. I don't think police ever told him what they thought he was doing. In the process of restraining and arresting him, he said, "I can't breathe" then went unconscious. No attempts were made to provide CPR or to revive him until after an ambulance arrived. He died. And the police officers involved were not held responsible.

Mike Brown - August 2014. He was 18. It seems as though he did have a scuffle with the police officer while the officer was in his car and then he ran away. For whatever reason, he turned back to the officer and then he was shot several times. He was unarmed at the time.  In Ferguson, though, I think this incident just brought to light a long history of trouble between the police force and Black citizens in Ferguson. There are some really awful statistics showing how the police in Ferguson had been treating Black citizens (read more here)

John Crawford - August 2015. He was 22.  He was at Walmart, carrying around a pellet gun that he wanted to buy. Someone called police saying he was pointing the gun at people (who later admitted that he hadn't actually seen him point the gun at anyone). He was on the phone with the mother of his children walking through the aisles at Walmart when police shot him inside the store. The officers were not held responsible.

Walter Scott - April 2015. He was 50. He was pulled over for having a broken taillight. We don't know why he ran away, some have speculated it's because he owed child support money. Video shows the police officer not only shooting him in the back as he ran, but planting his taser next to his body and then reporting that Mr. Scott had stolen his taser from him and was trying to use it against him.  He was charged for his actions because a bystander caught him on video. I can't help but think that had no one caught it on video, his lies would have been accepted.

Freddie Gray - April 2015. I'm not sure what he was arrested for. He saw a police officer and ran, so he was pursued & arrested.  He didn't resist arrest. While in police custody, he suffered spinal injuries that would later kill him even though there is nothing in the police record about anything happening. There is something called a "rough ride" that police have used to intentionally harm the person they have arrested - this was admitted by a police union attorney.  At one point, Mr. Gray asked for medical attention. He was never given any. And he died.

Some of these men were totally innocent, having committed zero crimes. Some of them did commit crimes, like running from police, resisting arrest, stealing.  Some had criminal records and were known by police.  But at the end of the day, what they did did not deserve death. We don't give the death penalty for stealing, for running away, for long criminal histories. All of them were Black, all of them were unarmed. That worries me.

Something is wrong that this keeps happening. We need to acknowledge it. We really do. Admitting that there is a problem doesn't meant that you no longer support the police. In fact, if we want to support our police, we need to help make their actions better. It will be safer for them as well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why Christians Should be AGAINST the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

In case you aren't hearing any news these days (happens to me sometimes): many states are enacting laws to protect the religious freedoms of individuals and/or businesses. My own state has one coming through right now. It's called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately not. You see, all of this has come to light because of businesses (and individuals at said businesses) not wanting to provide services to gay couples for their weddings. So now we are creating laws to protect people who, because of religious beliefs, would like to discriminate against others.

This is not the world I want to live in, it's not the world I want to raise my children in. It is scary to me to think that we would legally protect discrimination because of a "strongly-held religious belief." It doesn't take much imagination to see how quickly this could go awry.

I get it if you believe the Bible condemns same-sex marriage. I understand that this can be a very deeply held belief. While I disagree, I do respect this perspective.  However, no one is arguing what the Bible says or doesn't say here. We are talking about the rights of individuals in the United States of America; the freedom we have in our country to do business with one another regardless of any differences between us.

So here is why I believe all Christians should be against the RFRA: It broadcasts a strong message of hate.  It sends out a message of "Us vs Them" and "We don't want them in our club."  It confuses me when Christians place a desire to protect our own rights over a desire to love others. What I don't understand is this: there is still a Biblical mandate to love, to serve others, to "eat with sinners"as Jesus did.  So even the most passionate anti-gay-marriage Christian should still want to have a gay couple over for dinner, bake their wedding cake, love them with the love of Christ.  It baffles me that intentionally blocking the rights of another individual or just outright refusing to serve them could ever be considered a Christian family value. I simply can't believe that the message of hate that is sent by refusing to bake someone's wedding cake is what Jesus meant when he said, "they will know you by your love."

Refusing to do business with someone or provide a service for them because we disagree with some aspect of their lives (or worse, with WHO they are) will never provide an adequate picture of who Jesus is. And if we are truly "Christians" (the world means "little Christ")... we should try hard always to show others what it looks like to be loved by Jesus. As far as I can tell, Jesus never called us to become discriminators in his name. He never told us to seek legal protection to elevate our own faith above others in our governments. Because even if we have a right to refuse service to someone because something they've done is contrary to our beliefs... we shouldn't refuse to be involved in someone's life because we don't agree with them.

Jesus loves me. He loves me when I'm awesome: when I'm volunteering, when I'm loving my kids, and when I'm being a sweet wife. He loves me when I mess up: when I yell at my kids, when I cuss, when I'm selfish.  He loves me because of who he is, not what I do or who I am.  And he told us that if we were to follow Him and love others the same way that it would be hard. That we might be uncomfortable sometimes.  It might hurt. Scratch that: it WILL hurt. He loved us so much he died for us. Kind of a hard act to follow but folks...that's our example. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

I'd love to see Christians try something new. What if Christians around the country stood up FOR the rights of our gay brothers and sisters? For some people, that might be uncomfortable. It might even hurt. But no matter where you stand on what the Bible says about gay marriage, we can still be protectors, fighters of oppression, soldiers for justice, lovers of the unloved. Imagine the message of love we could send: Jesus loves you, God is FOR you. We are FOR you. We want to protect your rights even if we don't agree with you. That's the kind of love Jesus shows me every day.  And that, my friends, would be amazing. I can almost hear the angels singing.

**(side note: none of this affects pastors. The Constitution already protects pastors and churches - they do not have to perform gay, interfaith, interracial, inter-anything marriages if it isn't part of their faith. We're talking about businesses and individuals here).

Sunday, March 29, 2015


I am so excited to have permission to share this with y'all. Lately, I've been feeling a little down... really just kinda bogged down thinking about all the things wrong with the world. I've been thinking about all the things we need to change, all the ways we can do more and just feeling kinda... down.

But this morning I got this email. Perfect timing. My wonderful friend Chris Cheek is in Swaziland right now, serving a 2 year commitment to live on Project Canaan, be a grandmother (Gogo) to the children living in the toddler home and a mentor to the Aunties. She is one of the most amazing, fabulous, incredible people I have ever met. You need to know her. Seriously. And she gave me permission to share this week's email update!

So here you go:

Greetings from Project Canaan!

First the most important news - we had the arrival of the 6th baby since I arrived in Swaziland.  It is so hard to wrap my arms around the fact that in my 11 weeks in Africa we have become home to 6 more abandoned babies. 

There are days that I feel like I must be on a movie set & someone is going to yell "cut." We are on 2500 acres of some of the most beautiful mountain views & farm land I've ever seen.  I begin my mornings to the voices of the most angelic sounds of little ones singing "building up the Temple of the Lord, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABC, Jesus Loves the Little Children" echoing down the hallway into my room. Soon the songs are followed by the patter of little feet heading to the bathroom. 

Each day I learn & see more and more of their unique personalities just blossoming. Lucy shaking her finger back & forth as she tells you something, Joshua calling me Gogo Cheap, Elisha's mischievous laughter, Esther showing her latest booboo, Rose's twinkle in her eyes, John saying, "you be nice" Gabriel saying "Gogo sit here,". Leah & Rachel just being sassy to our very own Project Princess Deborah. 

Shapes, letters, numbers and colors are being learned from Kindergarten down to preschool. Afternoon playtime on the playground, adventure walks around the farm, fun in the pools, bubbles, toy dump trucks, wagon rides, baby dolls, sandbox, slides & swings, soccer balls & books. All the fun things you would imagine for a child.

Healthy meals, snacks, fresh milk, fruits & clean water.  Clean clothes & shoes. Warm fuzzy pjs for winter & cool cotton ones for hot summer nights. 

Laughter & giggles, tears & runny noses and shoes on the wrong feet.  Sunglasses upside down, chicken feathers in hair & rocks in pockets. All the things that goes with being 2, 3, & 4. 

Then I remember these babies were left to die; abandoned in lonely dangerous forests, pit latrines, plastic bags, in rivers along side the road. Parents without jobs, no hope, no way to provide, sick & broken. So deep in the darkness they can not find their way out, let alone see any light. 

When will someone yell "cut?"  

I have to be on a movie set. This can't be real. It is 2015 and a country is dying, the average age is about 18, 40% of the population is under the age of 15, the average life expectancy is between 29 & 33, there are orphaned children everywhere, there are GoGos taking care of their children's children, their nieces & nephews children and maybe a few of their neighbors. They are tired & exhausted. They walk 30 minutes for dirty water out of the river. No electricity, living In a round hut made of sticks & stones. Praying for rain to water the fields so the maze will grow so they eat for the upcoming year, praying that the rains aren't so strong that their hut washes away & they have to start a new. 

When will someone yell "cut?"

This can't be real, it has to be a movie - a fictional place made up in the mind of a master writer. Please yell "cut."  

Ohhh my friends it is all so real & their is no "cut."  It is all real, the days are long, the reality is heart breaking.  But there is is happening at Project Canaan.  I get to see it & live it every day.  The HOPE lies in the future of all the little ones that come through that front gate .... For their lives will be the ones that will make the difference. So Lucy keep shaking your finger, Leah & Rachel keep being sassy, John keep saying "you be nice" and Deborah you keep on being out Princess.  Let the songs ring out in the morning, the laughter echo down the hall, dancing in the yard & hugs through out the day. The HOPE of Swaziland lives at Project Canaan!  

This journey continues....


Monday, March 23, 2015

Responsible TO, not Responsible FOR

I'm one of the "Moral Focus Coaches" at my older kids' school. It's just a volunteer thing - parents teach a little lesson on the monthly character trait once a week. I love it. I love teaching the lessons, being with the kids, and I love that the whole school does the same trait at the same time.

So this month, the word is "Responsibility." Sounds great. Maybe this will be the month my 2nd grader remembers that it's his responsibility to bring home his homework folder every day. (seriously - the child forgets it at least twice a week! Lord help us). I love Responsibility! We use Love & Logic a lot at home and the main idea behind L&L is raising responsible kids. 

But as I read the official definition of the word, I felt like something was missing.

Sure. Being responsible means I take care of my own stuff; I do what I'm supposed to do; I admit to my own mistakes and try to fix them. All of that is true.

But on some level, aren't we responsible TO each other? Maybe I'm not responsible FOR you - I can't make your choices, force you to do or not do something. I can't rescue you from the consequences of your actions.  But doesn't responsibility also connect me to someone else? The definition above seems to start and end with me. But I think we have a responsibility TO our community, TO the people with whom we share our world. Don't we?

I fear that Responsibility as an American value has become an individualized trait. I am responsible FOR me. Period. End of Story. While this is true in many ways (I can't control a single person other than myself), I fear what happens when "Being Responsible" is all about me.

I can do my own thing, take care of me and mine, focus on what I need to do. And life, for me and my family, would probably be okay. 

But what about my community, my world? The world I'm leaving for my kids, grandkids, and their children? Am I not responsible to the lives I touch? If I don't take responsibility to leave this world a better place, who will?

I think about the folks who are homeless that I see every week when I volunteer at our local day shelter. Am I not responsible TO them somehow? I am a person of means, with access to resources. While I can't make their choices for them, I can be responsible for treating them with compassion. I can't rescue them from the consequences of their actions, but I can be there when they need to talk, help them find the open doors to services, volunteer to make sure no one freezes outside on a cold night because there was nowhere else for them to go. I don't want to live in a compassionless community. Aren't we responsible for that? 

I think about the children in Swaziland. Are we not responsible TO our brothers & sisters across the planet? People, fellow human beings, are starving. They don't have access to medical care. Yet I have enough to eat; I can go to the doctor anytime I want. Emergency rooms can't turn me away.  I suppose I could say, "that's not my problem." But why would we do that? I don't want to be that kind of person. 

I think about women and children being trafficked in the sex trade. If we know it's happening, aren't we responsible to act? Because if we don't... who will? Do we want to live in a world where we know this is happening, yet don't care enough to do something about it? If the answer is no, then aren't we responsible TO act on their behalf?

And what about our fellow humans being forced to work in slave conditions in factories world-wide. We are the consumers of the products made by their hands. Doesn't this give us some responsibility? I eat chocolate; my money pays the chocolate companies. Aren't I responsible, at least a little, for making sure I don't purchase chocolate that was harvested by children who were trafficked into slavery? And my clothing? I buy & wear clothes... doesn't that link me to the hands that made my clothing? If I'm not responsible TO them somehow, then I guess it doesn't matter if I buy clothing made by slaves. But that's just not okay with me.

Right here, in my own community, people are being mistreated. We hear stories of racism every day. I don't want to raise my children in a racist society. But is it enough just for ME not to be racist? What about working towards equality? Aren't I responsible TO my fellow humans who say they've been oppressed? If I say I'm against oppression, there must be a responsibility that follows... right?

I would love to live in a community where being responsible TO each other is highly valued. I would love to see this become an American value: having compassion for one another, caring for one another to the extent that we feel responsible TO one another.. To be a truly great nation, we need to see and hear our most oppressed groups and take on the responsibility of solving the problems. Individualism isn't bad... but I think we can do something greater.

There's a big difference between being Responsible FOR and Responsible TO. And maybe I'm not responsible FOR anyone other than myself and my family. That's okay. But friends... let's be responsible TO each other. What a wonderful world that would be.