Friday, April 18, 2008

How to Give a Damn

Larry JamesMy CEO was asked to give a presentation entitled, "10 Things you can do to seek justice and do compassion." He solicited input from a few of us on staff at CDM.

Here's what I sent, while thinking of St. Francis of Assisi's words "Preach the Gospel at all times; only use words when necessary."


There is great value in learning how to live your life by pretending to be someone else for a day. Here are some "guises" that, if worn for 24 hours, could change all of our lives.

  1. Jesus the Mute. Try to preach the Gospel at all times while being unable to use words. Literally, do not say a word all day, but imagine that it is your day of trial and God has asked you to share His word through your actions. What would you do?
  2. Our homeless neighbor. Dress down and spend a day -- and, if you can, a night -- walking the streets of your community as a homeless person. See what it is like to try to access the resources that you need without money. Go to the library, the local soup kitchen, the shelters, and other resources and see what it feels like to be the "unseen seen."
  3. Our imprisoned neighbor. It is likely impossible to convince a jail to let you stay there for a day without locking you up for doing something, but go and visit a prison just to see what it's like. Don't go to "minister" or to evangelize. Just go to get to know people.
  4. Our hungry neighbor. Go all day without eating, but not while avoiding those who eat. Sit with your family at breakfast and don't eat. Sit in the lunchroom while your coworkers eat. Go through the mall's food court during dinner time and just observe people eating. This is hunger.
  5. Our blind neighbor. Try to spend a day in your home while wearing a blindfold. Imagine if that were your everyday… and if you did not know where you were as well as you know your home.
  6. Our deaf neighbor. This is hard to do, and usually requires some expensive hardware… but try to find a way to block noise from getting to your ears for a day. Imagine if music died for you. Imagine if you could only see the mouth moving the words "I love you," but not hear it.
  7. Our disabled neighbor. Spend a day in a wheelchair -- a MANUAL wheelchair. Go to the mall. Go through an outdoor shopping center. Go to the library. Experience life with limited mobility.
  8. Our uninsured neighbor. Go to your county hospital's emergency room and report that you have a toothache but no insurance or ability to pay. See how long it takes to see a doctor.
  9. Our defenseless neighbor. Go to the county courts and observe the trials. If possible, try to get into a family court case. Imagine what it would be like to be the battered woman who cannot afford an attorney.
  10. Our poor neighbor. Imagine that you make minimum wage. Create your family budget based on this. How quickly do you run out of money? How much do you need to earn per hour just to have the bare minimum that you expect out of life? How much do you need to earn for your current life? Call apartments and ask about rent -- how much would you need to make to afford them? Would you consider living in one of the places that you could afford if you were making minimum wage?

On this last note, you should visit Poverty Tour USA from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development:

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