Do we really have a good excuse for just staying on the sidelines and watching? Do we really need to fear the approaching emotional manipulation with its appeal for what we should be doing? But Marti, how do I get involved with making right what has gone so horribly wrong, and who do I pull in to help fulfill the need?
As to that first question, we no longer have an excuse to be bystanders. If we want to be where God is, we must feed the poor, lift the oppressed, and care deeply.
Even if we wrench ourselves awake from the dreamy indifference with which the world’s poor have forever been treated, we become aware that in ordinary times, we give when it’s easy — a gesture…a reflex…a salve to the conscience. The entreaties come on late-night TV or in the mail from well-meaning but long-discarded celebrities who cuddle with large-eyed children and appeal to our pity and guilt. Maybe we send off a check and hope it will help someone somewhere stay alive for another day. That is not the model for us current crusaders or the message for these extraordinary times.
Like children with their neighborhood lemonade stand, every enterprise has to start somewhere. For every lemonade stand there is a beginning to inform, invite and involve in the practice of justice, to teach the inequities that every disaster exposes, and to help people understand that in the poorest of countries, everyday is a deadly tsunami.
Embrace everyone who tries, including the endearing person who unscrupulously tries to exploit. Invite people to think globally, but to act carefully, always demanding efficiency. For every fact that you know about injustice, find one action you can do about it. Prove what works. Then use whatever leverage you have to get it done.
If you find yourself tiptoeing around prejudice or condemnation, you know that you’re in the wrong place. Move on as the Lord directs.
No matter what you do, it will never be enough. Yet this is not an excuse for helplessness. Invite everyone to your lemonade stand in a way that makes people think they are missing something if they hold back. Be genuine. Gain nothing personally. Open yourself up to criticism because you are willing to work with anyone to find help for whatever has taken your heart — and insist on making right what has gone horribly wrong.
Finally, do not operate out of pity, but operate out of passion. Pity sees suffering and wants to ease the pain; passion sees injustice and wants to solve the problem. Pity implores the powerful to pay attention; passion warns them about what will happen if they don’t. The risk of pity is that it kills with kindness; the promise of passion is that it builds on the hope that the poor are fully capable of helping themselves if given the chance. The world’s poor do not need sympathy, they need people to be informed, invited and involved in making a difference. We are not talking about size or scope, but about getting to work to make right what God has placed on your heart.
You see, Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice. It makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties. It doubts our concern. It questions our commitment. Because there is no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa, and if we’re honest, conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else.
Bono, Congressional record – Senate, volume 152, Pt. 17 November 14, 2006.