Hello My Sweet Girl. I hope you’re having a good day. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that you are. Based on your constant smiles and giggles, you’re one of the happiest babies ever. Which is only fair, because you’ve brought so much joy to everyone around you in your 11 months.
Truly, you have been a gift to all of us, maybe especially to me.
Speaking of gifts, I believe whenever you get a gift, you should give one back. As I said in my first letter to you, my words are my gift. So, here are two words:
A very dear friend of mine says that most of my writing centers on “social justice”. She’s right I suppose, inasmuch as I write a lot about caring about, and for, people who look and talk and act and think and believe differently than me. Who have lived (or are living) a life not my own. Who have not enjoyed the same blessings and benefits.
Clearly these are very big ideas for an 11-month-old to chew on (although you’re chewing on everything these days, so maybe not…)
Yet that’s exactly my point.
Broadly defined, “social justice” addresses fair relations between individuals and society through the lenses of wealth, educational opportunity and social privilege.
Heard that way, it’s easy to understand why so many people hear and see and think about Social Justice — capital “S”, capital “J” – as something too big for them to do anything about.
Yet, as is always the case, the solution to a “big” problem is to chop it down to size. We can – we must – cut all mountains down to manageable molehills.
The challenge of social justice, like nearly every other human-created challenge, is best addressed human to human.
One of these days, you will hear about a man named Jesus. Your parents will decide what you learn about him. As your Papa, I will only say this much:
For two millennia humanity has dissected and debated every microscopic aspect of what Jesus said, what his words meant, and what they could still mean. This immensely complex question has fueled more war, bloodshed and heartache than every other conflict in human history.
Which is ironic and frustrating, because, for me, Jesus’ message boiled down to one amazingly, bluntly, almost ridiculously simple point:
Love God and love one another.
How (or even whether) you define “God” isn’t nearly as important as that you understand that there’s a bit of something special in all of us.
Every human being living every kind of life is a person and has earned your respect (at very least), kindness, sympathy and empathy by the simple fact of their existence.
Every human being experiences the same longing for comfort, craves the same need for love, searches for the same validation by association.
We all share the same spark of life. Call it God, call it whatever. The point is, we are all the same, same, same. Regardless of skin color or language or wealth or birthplace. God, in His/Her/Its perfection does not create walls. Only jealous, greedy, arrogant Man does that.
In that light, social justice is easy.
Yes! Help fight to ensure Guatemalan coffee farmers fairly profit from their work.
But also support your local employee association because (surprise, surprise) the billions in profits being made by many American companies never seem to “trickle down” to the little guys doing the work.
Yes! Donate whatever you can to feed those starving in foreign countries.
But also give a few boxes of food to your local food pantry to help your neighbors who just lost their jobs or, more likely, are working three jobs to get by.
Yes! Protest for First Amendment protections for everyone.
But also subscribe to your local newspaper to make sure even the smallest voices always have a platform.
Yes! Visit prisons and read to inmates.
But also support your local library so that maybe, just maybe there might be a few less prisoners needing you to read to them.
Yes! Fight for free health insurance for all.
But also donate a few toys to the children’s ward at your local hospital or volunteer a couple of hours and give the overworked nurses a much-needed break.
Yes! Help build schools for girls in Third World countries.
But also buy every candy bar or bag of popcorn or tub of cookie dough or magazine subscription you can to support the overworked, underpaid and unappreciated teachers helping our own children to learn and grow.
Yes! Donate to international charities helping the poor, emotionally sad and mentally ill.
But also give to the local homeless shelter, where all three sleep every night, if there are enough beds.
Yes! Pray for God to protect and drape His/Her/Its goodness over everyone around the world.
But also love and help those who need your kind heart here and now. Always remember that we improve Tomorrow by making today’s big problems a little smaller.
My dear Riley, social justice is not a burden too big. It is not an option. It is an obligation and opportunity to show and create grace for a world desperately needing it.
That’s our gift to give. Yours, mine, everyone’s. One helping hand, one open heart, one loving smile at a time.