I read a news story recently that’s stuck with me. It was about the experiences of undocumented Hispanic women who had worked at several of Donald Trump’s golf courses.
That wasn’t the surprising part. One woman, Sandra Diaz, talked about a time when Trump had personally inspected a room that she had cleaned. He ran a finger over various surfaces to check for dust and, finding none, gave her a very generous tip and praised her work. Another housekeeper recalled an occasion when Trump saw that she couldn’t reach the top of a window, took her rag to clean it himself, and gave her a generous tip.
Was this the behavior of an exacting boss? Yes. But was it also kind? I’d say so.
Trump is easy to pick on, especially as a Canadian. But the story stuck with me because I recognized something in it – that willingness to treat people well in person, in private, but to simultaneously be part of (and run!) a system that keeps them down.
The kindness of others often puts me to shame. People who have strangers over for dinner. People who help others stranded on the side of the road. People who take meals to those who are sick. People who sponsor refugees and enfold them into community.
That is beautiful stuff. Kindness is essential, and worth celebrating.
But it’s also not enough, not if we also hold power in systems that privilege us to the detriment of others.
If strawberry harvesters are striking for better working conditions and we continue to buy the strawberries . . . and then lead a Bible study for the workers, is that enough?
If we volunteer at a food pantry for people working minimum wage jobs who still can’t make ends meet . . . and then oppose increases to the minimum wage, is that the Christ-like love to which we’re called?
Figuring out how to live with righteousness and justice will always be complicated and messy, because humans are complicated and messy. That’s the risk that love takes.
A WIDE ‘US’
One of my favourite humans is a scotch-drinking, baby-cuddling, hiking pastor from the Prairies named Thyra. About justice, she says, “We’re in this together. We’ve got you. We won’t overlook you, ignore you or forget you. We won’t let you fall. We won’t let others pull you down. We’ll get that ground underneath you again.”
Spoken word poet Micah Bournes says it this way: “You never stop fighting for your own.”
Who do we see as “our own”?
The question that burns in my heart these days is this: “Who do I identify myself with? Who am I willing to fight for, through disappointments and changing life stages and fatigue, because they are my own? Who am I willing to take risks for? Who am I willing to wade into the messiness for? And do they look like me?”
And so, as I continue the long process of leaving my job at the denominational building, I want to leave with a blessing for the Christian Reformed Church, this family that I love and grieve over and fight with . . . and that is deeply a part of me.
May your kindness be a gateway.
May God bless your first timid steps, and show you the next
And draw you into relationships
Where you can hear hard truths.
May you honour the courage of those who dare to speak plainly.
May you run into walls of self-sufficiency,
And may those walls set you free.
May you not have all the answers,
And may all be well with your soul anyways.
May you be willing to wade into the messiness,
To delve into questions without clear answers,
To risk being wrong or looking unreasonable
For the sake of “us.”
May your “us” be wide and high and long and deep like the love of Christ.
May you love some enemies,
And maybe even flip some tables.