What Being The Change Feels Like
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Politics and Activism

What Being The Change Feels Like

"Be the change you want to see in the world." Mahatma Ghandi

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What Being The Change Feels Like
Sharon Witt

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Ignatian Family Teach-In For Justice in Washington D.C. It was a gathering of students from Jesuit Institutions from across the nation in which myself and 20 other students from my university attended. It also happened to be the weekend of my birthday and I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t overly excited about spending my birthday lobbying for “meaningful criminal justice reform.” Of course, I am passionate about it but I couldn’t help but think about what I was missing out on. What could I even accomplish? Wasn’t someone else doing it? Would it make a difference whether I was there or not? I wanted to do this but I also wanted to fulfill my own selfish desires. I made the decision to go and, per usual, God knew what he was doing.

When you hear “Teach-In For Justice” it doesn’t really encompass what we were really doing. We gathered to educate, discuss, and lobby for social justice reform in our country. We talked about social justice issues that are plaguing our country and we stood together acknowledging every single person on this planet’s humanness and how we are all connected in Christ. We acknowledged the respect and dignity that comes along with that humanness and how there are so many people who do not acknowledge that dignity fully. Our conference focus was immigration and criminal justice reform, but there were breakout sessions ranging from #noDAPL to talking about a merciful response to the election to mental health. I attended many talks and got some great quotes that hit my heart in just the right spot. I learned a lot about myself and about how my actions are contributing to the destructive behaviors in my society. My passion was fed and I knew that I truly could make a difference because I have a voice and I can make people listen.

The morning of my birthday came and I was ready to lobby. I was incredibly nervous and I had no idea what to expect but I was prepared and I knew what I needed and wanted to say. I was no longer concerned about what I was missing at home or the party I could have had. I wasn’t thinking of myself and I was fighting for those who have little to no voice. I ended the day feeling like it was truly the best birthday I ever had (and that is within a 2-hour flight delay making my arrival home at 1 am). I spent my birthday making a difference. I was being the change I wanted to see in the world. I was giving back and working for something that may honestly never have an impact on my personal life. I was recognizing the humanity in everyone of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was working to make sure others saw it, too. It was an amazing feeling and I walked away really thinking this was something I could do for the rest of my life.

I can’t help but think about the “Parable of the Workers” in Matthew 20:16; “so the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” I have been first almost my entire life. I am a white, middle-class, straight, female who identifies as female. No one has ever looked at me and thought I was a hooligan because I was wearing a hoodie and sweats. No one has ever confronted me about kissing my boyfriend. No one has tried to kick me out of the bathroom. I haven’t had all that much that has held me back in my life. I have been first. This weekend made me realize this and I was putting the last first. I was fighting for 2500 men and women who were given life sentences and children. I was fighting for the African American men who are serving the same amount of time for non-violent drug crimes and white men are for violent crimes. I was standing with the men and women who have been jailed with mental health issues instead of getting the help that they truly need. I was holding the hand of the 2.7 million children who have at least one parent in prison. It was no longer about me and my trivial birthday. It was and is about making sure that everyone, including the 'disposable', the immigrant, the marginalized, the criminal, ALL are welcome at the table. Being the change feels pretty good. You should try it.

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”- St. Francis of Assisi

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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