Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everyday Justice - Live Oak Value #5

Justice is a big word with big meaning in our country. It goes right along with the other big ideals in American life such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I used to think of "justice" as something the legal arm of our government took care of - not something that I was necessarily responsible for taking part in also. Justice, however, doesn't only happen when people in positions of power take action. Justice can happen everyday by each of us simply making simple, thoughtful decisions.

All it takes for this world to become more just is for each of us to open our eyes and be willing to see the world around us. Instead of ignoring that woman on the street corner and assuming she is lazy or an addict, why don't you picture yourself in her place? Perhaps she left an abusive situation and has no family to fall back on for help. Perhas she is an addict - but even if she is, God does not want us to ignore her and pretend she isn't there.

Everyday justice can become a part of your whole day when you begin to open your heart and eyes to the world. When you go shopping do you think about how the goods you are buying have come to be available to you? Has the manufacturer paid a living wage to those who have produced that cute shirt or that particular brand of coffee? Has another section of forest been clear cut and burned to mass produce cheap meat or produce crops that cannot be grown there for more than a few seasons?

I believe that the little bit extra I spend to buy goods that have been produced in a way that won't harm the world God gave us stewardship over and enables a farmer to feed his family, send a sick child to the doctor, or give his children a chance at an education is worth it. The hassle of bringing all my own reusable bags to the store is worth it. Paying $2 more per pound of coffee is worth it. To me, being aware of how my actions and consumerism affect others is worth the extra effort and money because in some small way, it might make the world a better place.

Obviously, everyday justice is not just about how we shop. We need to be aware of how the issues of justice affect those who live arounds us as well. We don't have to look far to see need close to home. According to the Basic Needs Coalition of Central Texas, 40% of families in the Austin/Round Rock Major Metropolitan Area are living below the Central Texas Security Index. In regular language that means that 40% of the people living in our area (possibly including you) are living on the edge of economic catastrophe because they earn just enough (with a combined income of two working adults) to pay the bills.

Everyday justice is about taking off our blinders and looking carefully around us. We can reach out to the mom next door who is stressed out and needs a break from the kids for a few hours. We can step in when we see abuse. We can take over meals to folks who need them. We can teach our children by example to not fear those who are different from us whether that difference is based on skin color or socio-economic level. We can all donate regularly to social service providers close to us - such as food banks, shelters for the homeless or women and children.

We can do justice everyday if we see justice as something that can be accomplished in small, baby steps.

"...let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" - Amos 5:24