This past Saturday I had the privilege of being recognized and offering remarks at a fund raising dinner for Neighbors Link, a non-profit with whom I had worked for many years. Here is what I said….
As I thought about this evening…
In the genre of practice what you preach, this quote by Marian Wright Edelman, the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and the founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund. Words which, for me, serve as a reminder and a guide and a challenge. She writes:
I was taught that the world had a lot of problems; that I could struggle and change things; that intellectual and material gifts brought the privilege and responsibility of sharing with others less fortunate; and that service is the rent each of us pays for living – the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals.
We are all here tonight to support the mission and the work of Neighbors Link in a world and in our communities which certainly have their fair share of problems. And, as I look around the room, I am certain we share an abundance of intellectual and material gifts. And there is privilege. And, I am sure, all of us understand what responsibility looks like and feels like.
Then we get to the service part which does entail putting our money where our mouth is and where are hearts are which is a part of the purpose and goal of tonight.
But service also involves…
And speaking out.
And stepping forward.
And joining hands.
And building partnership.
And practicing solidarity.
I don’t know about you, but for me, when those moments arise…
To stand up.
To speak out.
To step forward
To join hands
My first reaction is often to say…
Not this time.
Not my turn.
I am too busy.
I have already done my fair share.
What if it doesn’t work out.
What if I can’t do it.
What if someone gets angry.
Which, if the data is correct and I believe it is, is more risky and scarier today then it was 6 or 8 years ago.
Which is why, when I saw this in a small shop in Colorado, I bought it and brought it home and put it on a shelf across from my desk where I would see it every day. Here it is. I know you can’t see it, but this is what it says.
The opportunity for greater courage comes in the most ordinary moments.
Like the one you have right now.
Or the one sometime tomorrow.
But, if not tonight or tomorrow, then most certainly the day after that.
My head wonders why it is so hard, but my experience tells me it is.
Especially in these days in which we find ourselves.
Why is it so hard and why does it take courage to treat others with respect?
Why does it take courage to be compassionate and caring?
Why does it take courage to be understanding and generous?
Why does it take courage to look at another person and see a neighbor instead of a stranger?
Why does it take courage to stand up to or to speak out against that which we know to be wrong or unjust or hurtful or just plain mean?
The opportunity for greater courage comes at the most ordinary of moments.
So besides our Thank You what I would like to say to you tonight is this.
It is not easy to be courageous.
But be courageous anyway.