I often wonder why I turned out to be such a social justice advocate. Was I born that way or was it due to some early childhood experiences? I am certain that growing up in a single parent household at the lower end of the economic ladder was a significant part of it. But I don’t think that was the driving factor. Like so many have said before, we might have been poor but I really didn’t know it until later.
Many of my early heroes in the literary sphere wrote about ordinary people struggling with daily life. John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens were two of them. They showed me that people struggling through life was a common thing. They let me know that my feelings about life were not unique to me as I had imagined. Was my attraction to those authors and their books on social justice a chicken or egg sort of thing?
As I have mentioned before I spent the first couple of decades of my life in the Catholic church. During that time I learned that being compassionate to those less fortunate was what God expected of me. I think these experiences helped make me the social justice advocate that I am. But I do think it was more than that. While I am not currently associated with any particular faith system I am attuned to Quakerism in many respects, especially their thoughts that there is the light of God in absolutely all of us. I like to think that an important part of that light in me pushes me into social justice issues. Why am I so serious about social justice when others who had similar experiences are not?
I admit that I find it hard to understand those who seem to have little empathy for others. Those “pull yourself up by your bootstraps or die in the gutter” folks are very foreign to me. I’m sure at some level they have feelings for others but… I have little in common with those who want to “lock them up and throw away the key” people. It is not that I don’t believe in all of us being responsible for our actions, I do believe that but I am more firmly entrenched in the second chances option.
Being a follower of Jesus Christ or at least being a Christian I know means thousands of different things to different people but to me the only real message of Christ was to love God and to love each other. All the other messages that people find inside the words in the Bible are very secondary to me.