Advocacy has many different parts, and they are all important. Writing blogs, posting on social media, telling your friends about issues that matter to you, donating time and money to organizations that help others… the list of meaningful things that you can do to advocate for others goes on and on. I want to bring up a simple action that can also move our world to a better place:
I’m talking about an every day love. A love for the people that you encounter at home, at school, at work, or in the grocery store. A love that effects the people right in front of you. Dr. King summarized it well:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Here’s the deal: we live in a world of separation. The rich prefer to live in gated communities where they can remain untouched by those with less money, power, or prestige. On the other side of things, our way of dealing with a refugee crisis and the most at-risk people in the world is to create refugee camps that are surrounded by huge fences, and we tell the refugees that they must stay there. Our culture embeds this separation from others in us all the time.
These visible physical walls that we build translate to invisible social walls as well; they increase the social space between people. They make us content with our own lives–content to block out the rest of the world. This, in turn, changes our worldview to one of separation as opposed to togetherness. We are wary of anyone who is “outside the walls.” We think of a difference in culture as weird or even wrong. We can justify dehumanizing other groups of people–we can justify inaction towards other people’s hardships–because they are different and scary and bad.
Let me offer a suggestion: all advocacy should be aimed at decreasing the social space between people, and this can begin with small changes in your everyday life.
Everyday, each of us encounters so many people that might really appreciate a little love. If someone needs a ride, pick them up. Pay for the person behind you in line when ordering food or coffee. Take the time to write a kind note to someone. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but be intentional about loving those in front of you.
At first, you might be nervous (that’s the social distance that we’ve created), but if you live life vulnerably, you will begin to build meaningful relationships with all sorts of interesting people. You will begin to appreciate people’s humanity rather than the ways that they are different from you. You will begin to have hope for a better future. You will begin to close that social distance between people that only creates fear, hate, and misunderstanding.
Go love someone. It could change the world.
-R. Chase Dunn