From "Creed," by Dom Helder Cámara

I want to believe that the whole world

Is my home, the field I sow,

And that all reap what all have sown.

I will not believe that I can combat oppression out there

If I tolerate injustice here.

I want to believe that what is right

Is the same here and there

And that I will not be free

While even one human being is excluded.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Global Solidarity Checklist

I've heard more than a few people say, "But living a globally-conscious life is hard." I don't think so! Not necessarily! If we all made small changes, we wouldn't be so threatened by huge problems. Here are a few easy steps to being a better human being.

Do you:

  • Wake up in the morning and smile?

  • Buy fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, sugar? (The first three are available everywhere)

  • Eat organic, locally grown foods? Search for farmers' markets?

  • Buy from local vendors instead of big chains?
  • Look for an alternative if it says "made in China"?

  • Make attempts to car pool? Own and use a bike? Ride the bus every once in a while?

  • Reuse plastic bags? Even better, bring reusable bags to the grocery store?

  • Compost?
  • Take five-minute or cold showers?

  • Carry a thermos and avoid plastic bottles?

  • Unplug electronics and turn off lights when you leave your room or house?

  • Recycle? Even if that entails driving somewhere?

  • Search for/attend cultural or educational events in your area? (My favorites: Race for the Cure, casino rueda lessons, Ghanaian drumming)

  • Greet homeless people, and consider whether or not to give them money if they ask?

  • Write in a journal?

  • Read a book instead of watching TV?

  • Exercise 30 minutes a day?

  • Click the magic food button at every day?

  • Give a monthly donation to an organization or charity of your choice? (My favorites: Homeboy Industries, Catholic Relief Services, Portland VOZ)

  • Listen whole-heartedly to the people around you?

  • Send letters to your friends?

  • Do things you thought you couldn't do?

  • Read the newspaper or browse a news site? Particularly the global affairs section?

  • Contact your Congressman/woman or Senator about issues that are important to you?

  • Pray, reflect, or just take breathing time for at least 10 minutes every day?

Please, please, please add your own thoughts to this list!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Plush Temptress Called Notre Dame

What are your attachments? What do they keep you from doing? Becoming?

As part of my goodbye to the States, I spent the last two weeks in the Midwest—the farmer-ful stretch from Bloomington to Chicago where I unexpectedly grew from a 12-year-old to an LA-bound collegiate. Bridesmaiding for a high school friend merited the trip in the first place, but I turned it into a sixteen day whirlwind tour of the people and places of my past (and possibly my future).

One day trip was to South Bend, Indiana to visit Notre Dame, the university where I almost spent four years. I had made frequent trips there as an undergrad in preparation for going. Being back was lovely and unsettling. It was so…me. And not at all. The students talked of nights at the local bars, cute boys and hot chicks, chemistry homework and dorm wars. My host/friend Elizabeth took me to their Hogwarts dining hall, where you pay $10 for an all-you-can-eat meal. I stuffed my face with veggie stir fry and frozen yogurt and took a bag of granola and three applies for later. We toured the bookstore, the golden-domed administration building, and the shiny law school.

I want.

People my age with similar upbringings. A future in academia. A big name university. Manicured lawns. A comfy dorm/apartment bed in a donated building to which you’re almost too tired to return after a day cramming at the 14-story library. Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you remember those ahhhh college days. And if your experience was anything like mine, you miss them terribly.

I want again (and probably will get). But I don’t want it in the sense that I want Nicaragua.

The spirituality of St. Ignatius—the big daddy of Jesuit Volunteer Corps--differentiates between fleeting wants and deep desires. The former may make you feel good, but they don’t fill you up for long. The latter, which don’t feel good all the time, form the bridge between your God-given abilities and the needs of the world. Prevalent examples of the former in my life are lust, food, dangly earrings, and a posh grad school. The most prevalent example of the latter is JVC.

Here’s where I have to be extra careful. I don’t mean to say that going to Notre Dame (which probably won’t happen to me—I’d like to further my studies in a global city—London, perhaps??) means you are giving in to a superficial craving. That’s about as absurd as saying that God hates me for using a laptop computer or plastic water bottle (alas—I bought one. I’m at an airport, in my own defense). But for me, in the moments where I took a wide-eyed tour of the campus where I could have been, I realized that no matter how hard it was (is) to be able to let go of comfort and prestige, that is what I need right now. So that I don’t run toward those things, solely for the sake of wanting them, not for the sake of using them to the fullest.

I hope that blog title double-taked you, and that you never again picture the Virgin Mary draped in diamonds and wearing horns. I am in no way attempting to offend the university to which this post principally refers. I am, instead, calling attention to my own attachment to what has become a beckoning Hilton hotel, which I pass with a wistful smile, outside the window of the speeding Red Line to becoming myself. Destination: Nicaragua. Someday I’ll hop back on the Red Line and exit at the Hilton stop for an extended stay. I will view it, I pray, with a wiser gaze, ready to use my comfortable economic and social privileges as a stepping stone for the world, rather than for myself.