Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Making a Difference

Several days ago I was reading an editorial by Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times. He was writing about the recent demonstrations and upheaval in Lebanon subsequent to the death of Rafik Hariri. One of the quotes used in his piece struck a chord with me. Speaking of the recent social unrest, he quoted Lebanese political analyst Nawaf Salam describing the revolution as "...not yet victory, but for the first time in a very long time, people are feeling, 'I can make change.' And there is a real sense of fraternity and unity."

Strangely enough, the last part of this sentiment reminds me of something I have tremendously appreciated about my experience as a young adult in the Church of God: the chance to contribute, and a sense of belonging. When Mr. Salam says "making change", I interpret that as the ability to be involved. To feel like you've given something of yourself, to make a difference, to play a part, however small, on the stage of events that shape the world as you know it. I'm thankful that we have many opportunities in the Church to play a part, however small, on the stage that matters most in our lives.

For me that does bring a "sense of fraternity and unity" that I think would be otherwise unachievable. Because of programs like camp, friendships across the country, and opportunities to serve and be involved locally, I feel like I'm a part of something much bigger than myself. I feel like I belong. Thinking about these blessings makes me wish that the Lebanese about whom Mr. Salam writes could experience them too. How long will the sense of solidarity from sharing space in the streets with hundreds of thousands of their countrymen last? What will follow for them, we all wonder? Something better? Worse? Either way, how long will it last?

Even though I can read all about events like this every day in the news, I can't possibly fathom what it would be like to live it. Even so, seeing it makes me thankful for my country, my Church, and for the chance to be a part of a group like this, with like-minded men sharing their lives and playing their parts, however small. It also makes me hope for the time in the future when the crowds in the streets halfway across the world, many of them probably about my age, will have the same opportunities to really make a difference, and for fraternity and unity that will last ... then it really will be a victory.

1 comment:

2nd Hand Lions Club said...

Personal Responsibility Develops Both Unity and Fraternity: the KEYS to a Sense of Worth; Self and Community

Well stated Dave. The moment a person feels a 'part of something' they begin the journey that will eventually lead them to understand the value of Unity and Fraternity.

This 'journey' begins with a sense of SELF-WORTH; leading to OWNERSHIP; acknowledgement of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY; CLAIMING that OWNERSHIP WITH RESPONSIBILITY; then realizing that all of this is ONLY POSSIBLE through God's INFLUENCE IN OUR LIFE.

We can see this in the thesis put forth in the book, "Claiming Your Place at the Fire", by authors Leider and Shapiro,

"To claim ones place at the fire means to live one's life on purpose. When we claim our place at the fire, we enter into the circle of vital elders who have been the source of wisdom in society since time immemorial. We do this by courageously reexamining and rediscovering who we are, where we belong, what we care about, and what our life's purpose is."

This is the acknowledgement of responsibility that comes with age and the position each of us is to assume as our roles change in life. To do this, in a mature manner - beneficial to both self and society, requires a good deal of 'outside guidance': from both our physical and spiritual influences.

This process of 'claiming one's place at the fire', is a natural transistion. However, the success of it - for each person - is immensely influenced by our environments. When a person is exposed to an environment, where unity and the value of participation is high, the individual learns their own value and worth - as well as the value and worth of each other individual.

This is KEY to having a true sense of 'personal responsibility'that is guided by a sense of 'it's the right thing to do' - not by the dictum, 'I have to do this right'.

The extreme opposite of this is to live in an environment of fear, oppression and no sense of personal or collective worth. Any amount of this negative influence we are exposed to, will add to our inability to make an healthy transition. This _IS_ WHY we must have the 'elders at the fire'.

The power of UNITY and FRATERNITY is the power of INFLUENCE. We do not all come from perfect backgrounds: quite the opposite is more than true.

So, as we enter society; regardless of age or positon; we enter either in harmony with the Unity and Fraternity or not. As we are exposed to the 'healing powers' of both Unity and Fraternity, we become more aware of our own worth; our own potential; and the sense of how that impacts the rest of our societal environment. We begin to build the sense of 'personal responsibility'.

Once this occurs, we can then build that personal responsibility outward and 'take possession' of our own value, purpose and destiny. Taking personal responsibility for our own actions has great impact on our personal world - as well as the world we have influence upon: our fellow brothers and sisters of humanity.

The story of Cain and Able is recorded because it explains this vital foundation-building principle .. with chilling clarity.

God tells all humanity, in His response to Cain's reply to His question, "Where is your brother Abel, Cain?", you are responsible for your actions.

In Cain's reply we hear the same disassociated cry of many in our society, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?". Many do NOT want to be involved; the same as not wanting to accept their role as citizens bearing personal responsibility for themselves AND others.

God's reply, was not, "Well, yes you are." His reply deeply infers this, but God pronounced it wtih far more powerful and far ranging consequences than that:

10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.
11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

-- Genesis 4:10-12

God told Cain the RESULTS - judgement - for his actions. God told Cain that He knew what he had done and what his penalty would be for such a loveless crime against humanity. God shows us that not being personally responsible is a sin.

God tells us ALL, that the abdication of our responsibility towards our 'fellow man'; brother, sister, family member, neighbor, friend or complete stranger; leads to a lifelong penalty of 'restless wandering on the earth'. This is anything but Unity and is obviously devoid of Fraternity. The heavy price of sin (1 John 3:4).

We are truly blessed to be associated with an organization that adheres-to and teaches God's Way of Life.

We must also remember that we do not 'own' the Church - God 'owns' the Church; which we know 'is' the people. What we _DO_ 'own' is the power of CHOICE (Deut 30:19); the ability to choose to WHAT, WHOM, WHEN and HOW we will be responsible.

As we seek to be guided by God and His Way of Living, we will make right choices, become responsible citizens - to society and ourselves. In so doing, we are prepared to truly Make a Difference. We will then become United and Fraternal in our dealings with all men, ourselves and God.

We have access to the greatest resource of unity and responsibility in all the universe. With the knowledge of what makes true unity and the fraternity of caring responsibility happen.

The only thing limiting us ... is us.

Uncle Garth