Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Standing Up by Sitting Down

Rosa Parks died yesterday at age 92. She is probably much more an icon of my parent's generation, yet I still remember with wide-eyed excitement first learning of her in a childhood social studies class. I remember the shock of learning that not giving up her bus seat to a white man led to her arrest and it opened my eyes to the tumultuous history of the civil rights struggle. As a child I held the naive view that "All men are created equal" was something our country had always believed and followed. Growing up meant surrendering that ideal to the truth that freedom isn't free and that for many, equality was earned through years of hardship and the blood of many great citizens. Reading today about the life of Rosa Parks, I'm awed most by her humility. She never believed that her actions were going to spark a movement as pivotal as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although history books cast her as the hero of that cause, she would probably be the first to agree that the only reason it was a "success" was not her actions alone but rather the unity of those affected.

It got me reflecting on how often in life we try to implement change with 10% of the people doing 90% of the work. I can't even count how many service organizations operate within this paradigm. It's a model for getting things done, yes, but it's also a model for breeding exhaustion and feelings of futility of a cause. How much more effective could we be if - as in the bus boycotts, sit ins and other protests of the civil rights era - 100% of the people gave their 1% (walking instead of bus riding) and those able could give even more (their very lives for the cause)? Suddenly with this model 100% is the bare minimum of what can be accomplished.

Unfortunately in today's culture we have too many excuses for not serving others. Sure there are times and places to give. My church had an amazing response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Over three giant truck loads of supplies were donated by our community and shipped to a church in Baton Rouge for New Orleans evacuees. I don't want to in any way put down the generosity of those who contributed to the cause, but what would it be like if every week people bought a case of Dasani for strangers without drinkable water? Would we no longer have to hear about yellow fever in Malawi? Or if every month people would clean out their closets and donate unused clothing - could January's news not include a death toll from exposure on Chicago's cold streets?

Again, my heart congratulates and soars for those who gave to relief efforts for Tsunami victims and Hurricane Relief funds. I applaud and thank you but I also implore you: PLEASE keep up the good work.

"Anyone can be great because anyone can serve:
you only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
All pictures from MSN article linked above.

Here's another cool article about Rosa Parks if anyone's looking to go a little deeper into her life and faith.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey lisa, I was sad to read that Rosa Parks died but this was a cool post. Keep up the great insights.