Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Do I Care?

Last week I wondered. Why do I care about the historic preservation of a building? Why do I care if the affordable housing community is built? Why do I care that there are homeless people living on our streets? None of these outcomes will change my life directly.

Most of the time, it’s not easy to care. When you really care, you take action. For these types of issues, you are often in the minority. Others may care but not enough to take action. If you act, you feel like the lone voice in the wilderness.

Even if you do find like-minded supporters for certain issues, it’s still not easy. If you stick your neck out, the repercussions from a loud and angry crowd of NIMBYs can be devastating. When they resort to personal attacks or try to discredit you, caring can be painful. People tell me you have to be thick-skinned.

Nothing new here to those with any experience with campaigns or NIMBYs. But when it happens to you, it feels like the first time. It is new. When taken on a personal level, aggressive emails and public complaints feel like you are being bullied. Standing up to a bully takes strength. People tend to shy away from confrontation so the bullies, and NIMBYs, win.

Last Sunday I visited a church. The minister preached about what Jesus could have done with his life. He could have continued to heal all day or preach nonstop, but his ultimate actions resulted in a movement, Christianity. She talked about how two thousand years later we have many people preaching to others, healing in hospitals, and working for nonprofit institutions.

I’d never thought about my nonprofit career as a fulfillment of Jesus’ mission. Throughout my teen years whenever I prayed in church for guidance in my life, the message was always so clear and loud. You must help other people. I could never escape it.

When I decided to “stay home with the kids”, I swore I would not go back to nonprofit work. I have.

Along the way I spent all my free time volunteering to make my little corner of the world better – the schools, the scouts, the church, and the community. I can’t help myself.

Last week, I reported on a meeting where one side of an issue presented their response to the other side. Unbeknownst to me, many didn’t want that information out in the community. The person who made the presentation said my writing was accurate, but his opponents are trying to discredit my integrity and ability. That’s tough to bear since it’s not been done in public, nor in a way I can respond.

So, the minister’s words were comforting to me.

Rest assured that this experience does not make me think that I’m on some type of Christian mission when I volunteer or work. I wouldn’t be so bold or ignorant. I acknowledge two sides to every issue and portray both evenly. My training as a Philosophy major forced me to accurately portray arguments then analyze their strengths. Sometimes this meant admitting that the argument against my belief was stronger.

A force … a strength … pushes me each day and keeps me going, even when it is not in my best self-interest. This much is sure. Where it comes from may not be certain.

Love and caring does extend beyond personal interests. Why do you care?

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