Hard work and some hate mail – you experience both when you care about the culture you live in and advocate for those who are harmed by the worst of it. So in the midst of busy days and full lives, why should we care about the culture we live in? Why not leave it to the professional activists, rather than getting entangled in difficult conversations? Here’s three reasons why.
- Beauty is fragile
We all want to live in a beautiful world. By beautiful world, I mean a place where each person’s humanity is intrinsically valued and respected; where people live in safety and find our basic needs met; where we experience the benefits of social cohesion; and we each have a purpose and opportunity to contribute to society. Yet this beauty rarely goes unchallenged, whether by greed, selfishness, ignorance or malice. If we do not tend the garden of community which provides such nourishment, it will be overgrown by quickly growing weeds which choke out our ability to cultivate a flourishing community.
- Because life is not about us
If we construct a world which revolves around ourself, it grows increasingly smaller. When we stop using our comfort as the yardstick by which we measure decisions, we enter a life beyond what we imagine. It can be grand, and also filled with deep disappointment. We find moments of delight, and weep more deeply than we imagined possible. As we give up our supposed right to comfort and convenience for the sake of those who are overlooked, beaten down, in distress or in need, we enter a story much bigger than ourselves. We don’t always get to play the lead, and we don’t always get to see the happy ending.
Many of those who live heroic lives do so quietly, often in ways hidden from headlines. They are the chaplains in schools or prisons; the volunteers in community organisations across the nation; the business owners toiling to keep their staff in work; or the parent speaking promise and value into their child. Their achievements may never be acclaimed in the spotlight, but the consequences of their lives are deeply significant and reverberate long after their name is forgotten. They value significance rather than prominence. They know life is not about them. They have internalised what actor Edward Albert said, that the simple act of caring is heroic. We can learn from them each day as we intentionally seek out role models of substance, who remind us that we are not the measure of our lives.
- The good we promote benefits all – including ourselves
It is an act of altruism to advocate for a more respectful and caring community, but it doesn’t only benefit others. When you speak up for those whose voices are often overlooked, you are also advocating for the world in which you live to be improved. After all, if the air is cleaner, all of us who breathe it will benefit.
I don’t believe there is a finite amount of compassion nor do I believe life is zero sum game. So, when we build a more expansive view of rights and include responsibility, and when we build a more generous view of success and include generosity, the stronger social fabric is also ours to enjoy. The more we make space for others to rise into their potential, the more we reap the shared reward of the beauty they create. Queen Rania of Jordan said, “A woman caring for her children; a woman striving to excel in the private sector; a woman partnering with her neighbors to make their street safer; a woman running for office to improve her country – they all have something to offer, and the more our societies empower women, the more we receive in return.”
What are the arenas in which you are called to step into and advocate for truth, justice and beauty? Who are the overlooked and the marginalised you are called to sit with and care for? The answer for each of us will be different. In this difference, let’s cheer each other on as each of us step up to help create a better tomorrow.