Thursday, October 23, 2014

What have I been doing with my life?

On October 6th, I had a 9:00am meeting in Northern Virginia, and I offered to drop Husband off at work on my way by. We were passing a federal courthouse when all of a sudden I saw something that made me question what I had been doing with my life for the last seven years. 

In 2007-2008, I spent a year closely connected with a non-profit called Torture Abolition and Survivors' Support Coalition International -- TASSC, for short. And TASSC was closely aligned with both the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, located in Petworth, and another small intentional Christian community called the Assisi House. The people who lived in these houses were teachers or activists, some in religious orders, some not, but all saw the world differently from most people, and for that matter, most Christians. It was here I was introduced to William Stringfellow, to Dorothy Day, to the Berrigan brothers, to Peter Maurin -- a strain of Christianity singing a countermelody to the sleepy protestant mainstream I grew up with. Those who lived in these houses were transformed by the witness of these authors, and they lived lives of witness. 

I loved those quirky folks, and those authors inspired me, too. But after a year of witnessing with them through TASSC, I felt compelled to effect, to plan, to change the world through my own sheer will. In other words, I felt called to do, while their mode of life is organic, to be. I went on to learn fundraising at top ten charity, the most planning-oriented and "effective" mode of helping that I could figure to do. You can't feed or shelter people without resources, or planning, or support staff. You can't make real change without worldly influence. In a nutshell, I was here to do what nearly everyone in Washington comes here to do -- to be smart and to change the world. So I better go about doing it. And I worked my small part. 

But on that Monday morning on October 6th at 8:45am, when I saw that group of Catholic Workers and TASSC people standing outside of the Federal Courthouse, all of that work seemed to be dross. Here they were, this ragtag crew of ten folks or so, holding anti-torture signs long after the national debate about "enhanced interrogation" has moved on. Seven years later, I recognized almost all of them. One wore a "Shut Down Guantanamo" t-shirt. I have that one, too. It's in my drawer, still bright orange. His was faded to the point it wasn't orange anymore, and kind of hard to read. By the way, if you were wondering, we still have prisoners in Guantanamo. 

Seven years of faithfulness. Seven years of steadfastness in the face of the world who at best doesn't care, and at worst despises them. And seven years was the only seven years that I saw -- the Catholic Workers of DC have been at it much, much longer than that. I've been thinking about them for weeks now, what it must take to do the same actions over and over again, never seeing substantial change. At the moment I drove by, I thought to myself, "That's what faithfulness looks like." And then I thought, "What have I been doing with my life?" 

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