An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”
Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her.
At the meeting, which happened today, I felt like I was back in college (I’m only 2 years removed) at a Peace Club discussion. People expressed the same emotions, the same ambivalence, the same passion for peace as anyone I’ve ever worked with in the antiwar movement. We talked about a lot of stuff there, including alternative ways to do a vigil, planting with young children in a community garden on Wednesdays instead of holding up signs in the center of town, community meals…many ideas were raised.
What was so striking to me though was the fact that I thought that if I lived to be as old as the people I was sharing the circle with this evening, I kind of thought I’d have the overwhelmed vs. balance vs. despair vs. hope “thing” all worked out. Here was my 70 year old friend struggling with it still. Whoa! That was a wake up call for me in the sense that I finally realized that a sustainable way of doing activism won’t just happen as I get older, but that I have to focus on forging that harmony and balance, and pick activities that are lifegiving…that I can still be spread thin even when I’m 70 if I don’t choose wise tactics and approaches…and even if I do, that I will probably still feel overwhelmed at times. Seeing an older person show visible emotion and pain from all that the war is doing to people and the Earth ministered deeply to me as a young person.
I am not exactly sure whether or not we’ll keep doing the vigils, and goodness knows I’m too busy to attend every week (even if it is one of my priorities) the group was divided when I left the meeting to go finish my homework. Let’s be clear. War is ugly, and even here, “far, far, away from the action” we are feeling pain too. So please, whatever everyone can do to take a stand for peace–whatever you do everyday, and wherever you are–please do so. Let us live as people set free from the sin of greed and selfishness, learn to share, and please send a prayer for us on Wednesdays (4:30pm EST) :).
You may be interested in reading this recent post over at the wonderful blog I Cite.
Investing so much time and emotion into something you can’t really control is physically, spiritually, and emotionally draining.
Dr. Somasoul will prescribe you something to fix the hurt. Beer.
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I understand her feelings and yours. I’ve been working 13 years among the poor and with a particular church, but I found out this week that the church I’d been working with is just as full of prejudice and fear of the homeless as when we started. They are still blaming incidents on our group, when there is no evidence we did anything, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.
I fall to bed exhausted each night and I wonder if I’m doing any good. Certainly I’m not when I look at the big picture. Working for justice is hard.
But think of William Wilberforce (or see the movie “Amazing Grace”). He stood against slavery in futility for decades, and then, in a sudden turn around, it just happened. The time was right. The message was heard. Perhaps now isn’t the right time, and our actions seem futile. But as long as we are working for God, there is always hope. Because God is stronger than the human heart.