ST’s post reminded me of a conversation I had last September with someone I’ve admired for his consistent commitment to justice-making over decades (peace and development work in Vietnam during the American War in that country, international and community interfaith work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc).
Knowing that it can be easy to burn out or drift toward the mainstream, I was interested in how he’s sustained his passion and activism over the course of the years. His answers came almost faster than I could write.
– Plant a garden and connect with the earth.
– Nuture your own heart and soul – and connect with those of others.
– Connect with artists, music.
– Take Polaroid camera along so that you can share/leave something with those you visit instead of taking all the photos along with you.
– Suspect people with education who can rationalize anything.
– Don’t let it go to your head — stay close to common people.
– Political people without sense of humor kills spirit and soul.
– I married an artist who’s a private person who keeps me from burning out (He mentioned that alone he might tend to invite everyone to their home at all times, and she helps maintain some important personal space for their family).
– Draw on faith.
– With a global community, you can bounce ideas off all sorts of people.
– Community living.
– Cultivate diverse skills (He has worked as an electrician when other “movement” work was not available).
– Gotta get through the phase of having young kids (if you have kids).
– Had to learn how to fix houses (they remodeled a number of houses, which they’ve then sold off).
– Beware of the self-righteous.
– Cultivate good friends who can call you out when you’re too smart.
He then ended with this analogy:
When a mirror aligns itself with the sun, it can be really powerful. We are mirrors, not the source. So align yourself with the forces of the universe – Be in the way. Ask yourself, “Is everyone winning?” That is the work of God.
I’ve appreciated these bits of advice because they arise from his very tangible experience and relationships — they’re grounded and practical. (I’ve since brought plants into my room, and my first tomatoes are starting to ripen — delightful!)
What wisdom have other YARs valued hearing from mentors or previous generations?