Monday, 10 June 2013

for in a mirror dimly March 29th 2013

 I was able to guest post a couple of months ago over at inamirrordimly...

"Micah 6:8 is a constant challenge. To do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly. Boy, that’s a tall order.

I know I don’t walk humbly when my hackles rise anytime someone corrects me.

I know I don’t ‘love’ mercy. I’m too big on ‘fairness’ to be as merciful as I would like to be. I’m a teacher, big on ‘consequences’ and ‘fair play’. After all, if you let kids off a punishment, how will they learn? I’m trying to ‘love mercy’ more, though. I try to be kind, really kind, more than I used to. So there is some hope there for a Better Me.

But I know I don’t ‘do’ justly when it comes to being more involved. I don’t march in protest against injustice. I don’t write letters for Amnesty International. I’m not even involved with our local, for very low-key offenders, prison.

Yet, there IS one thing I do.

Many years ago – pre-best friend boyfriend, pre-fiance, pre-husband, pre-children – I volunteered as a teacher in western Kenya.

Because it didn’t seem ‘just, right or fair’ that I, born in the privileged West to comfortably off (albeit still at times slightly struggling) middle-class parents, should have so much.

So much (relatively speaking) money.

So many opportunities.

So much education.

So I signed up as a volunteer, working in a run-down local school, earning a local teacher’s salary.

It was enough to put food on the table and, with careful housekeeping, afford travel on the (very cheap but dangerous) public transport to visit other volunteers and rent a small house (read ‘run down cottage’) at the coast for a week’s holiday. I felt it was ‘fair’ – on a par with the other, local, teachers. Like the young Francis of Assissi, I was aware of my privileged upbringing but at least, for a time, I earned just the same as my colleagues.

I did my best to help the students I taught to climb up the education ladder. To share what I had been given with those who hadn’t had the same opportunities, who life had treated more unfairly. I did my best to ‘do justly’.

Then I met my soon-to-be husband. We married. We carried on living in Kenya. Amid gross injustice, where so many were hungry and thirsty; homeless; sick, unable to afford good medical care; lacking in clothes – and education.

Oh, how I tried to ‘do justly’ without becoming a patronising, bottomless purse. I rarely gave money to the people who came to my gate EVERY DAY, asking for handouts. I offered work – usually refused. (In the first year in a new house on a busy road in the city, TWO people accepted the simple jobs – a couple of hours work – I offered for a day’s pay. And one of those was drunk. The other, an elderly lady, then accepted a permanent job, staying a couple of years.)

I tried to treat the people who worked for us fairly. I think I succeeded. (Our housekeeper cried inconsolably when we left and she is still a good friend. I bless God for the creativity of those clever minds which invented email and mobile phones.)

But then we moved back to the West. To a ‘fair’ society. Where justice was usually done – or seen to be done. Where material needs, at least, were fewer.

‘Doing justly’ became different. I translated it to treating my own children fairly. To being a ‘fair’ teacher, not having favourites among the children in my class. To being friends with all my colleagues, regardless of where they were in the pecking order: I treated the caretaker and cleaners the same as the head. To being ‘fair’ and honest in all my dealings with others.

It wasn’t enough.

Then I met Sue. A doctor. She had volunteered in Tanzania for a couple of months and then, just ten years ago, started a fund to help AIDS widows and orphans.

She started caring for one child.

Now she is responsible for more than twenty thousand children, nearly seven thousand of them in secondary school. Children getting life changing chances. Getting justice – because it is not just, or fair, or right, that they should be denied education because of an accident of birth. As Sue says: “There is a mountain of injustice which sees these children dressed in rags...their only set of clothes, unable to access education, drinking dirty water and too often going to their rest at night having had no food that day: when we think of the very different way children live in our countries and how much waste we throw away, when they have nothing, we become very aware of the injustice that is disabling these children. “

Feeding, clothing and sending so many children to school takes a lot of faith. And money.

So I do my little bit for justice.

I persuaded the school I teach in to ‘adopt’ the fund as their school charity. I organise fundraising events, encouraging the children to consider how they can help other children who do not have the same privileges.

The money we raise has built houses, fed and clothed and sent many children to school. We have ‘done justly’.

It’s not enough. It can never be enough. But it is what we do."

I pray that I may have eyes opened and a heart willing to do more.

For more inspiration, go to for many ideas about doing justly by living generously.

1 comment:

  1. Soaking in your blog this afternoon so I apologize for the multitude of comments I'm leaving. :-) But I wanted to say I didn't realize you are the Angie who wrote on Ed's blog! I love reading his blog too so this is a special delight to discover this. I still am struggling to find my place in the justice and fairness spectrum. I admire what you've done and are doing.