Good for what?

When I was growing up, if someone in our family said “I’m good”…or that something else was good, quite often the response was “Good for what?”

It was usually said in a humorous way–but with an edge of serious questioning about it as well.

I’ve been thinking about that recently, especially as we (as a country) have been struggling with protests.

There have been some harsh words said, and people have often responded with something to the effect of “Not me. I’m good.”

The question arises, though…good for what? Usually we hear it used in referring to someone as a “good for nothing.”

I think what my father was trying to get us to think about is that just being “good” isn’t enough. We needed to decide what we were taking a stand for…what we were “good for.”

Were we good for standing up to injustice? good for working to make change in our community? good for working to save the environment? good for finding ways to be peacemakers?

What are we good for?

What is my privilege?

I’m trying to educate myself more about the racial divide in our country. Recently I came across a way of expressing how much I take for granted that is not available to many others.

Here’s the various privileges and my paraphrasing of the descriptions:

  • Economic privilege – the possibility to pass wealth on to my children and to not worry about whether I can provide the necessities for my family…and also have enough for what would seem luxuries to many others (vacation, health care, etc.)

    This is true for me. I do not consider myself “rich”–but compared to most of the rest of the world, I am. I have a home, health care, the ability to buy food and clothing, enough to have private transportation and be able to go on vacations.

  • Spatial privilege – being able to move around without fear of violence.

    Somewhat true for me. As a woman, I am more vulnerable than men–but I am definitely less vulnerable than minority individuals.

  • Educational privilege – knowing that public education will meet my needs and that I can get a quality education.

    Definitely true for me. I received an excellent education–and have been able to get two advanced degrees.

  • Intellectual privilege – my accomplishments will be recognized as being my accomplishments, not as “a credit to [my] race.”

    Again, true for me.

  • Historical privilege – when I open a history book, people of my race are represented accurately and given credit

    Again, true for me. As I have gotten older, I am realizing just how much I did not learn from my history books–how much history was presented from only my perspective, diminishing the accomplishments of individuals from other backgrounds.

  • Generational privilege – the ability to search for and find my ancestors

    I’ve been enjoying doing some family research, finding out more about my great-great-great-great-grandparents (and further back). I can find them in historical records without too much difficulty, although sometimes figuring out which spelling of my last name might have been used! But in looking at those records, I also often see individuals described by only one name (a “white” one) with no other information that might help their descendants connect with them.

  • Bodily privilege – the freedom to look like I do and not have people judge me or want to touch me

    Again, this is mostly true for me. Yes, sometimes I may have someone ask if I have put on (or lost) weight, but that is not a constant question. And, except for when I was pregnant, people have generally not wanted or felt free to touch me without asking.

Once we can begin to recognize how much of our lives we (as white people) live without acknowledging how much freedom we have, then we can begin to see the differences that exist–and work to make sure others have the same privileges we do.

We cannot get tired…

There has been so much going on over the last couple of months…life changes coming at us in rapid succession.

We have also been overwhelmed with news reports…lots of news reports with conflicting information. Scientists and doctors say one thing; politicians say another.

And we have a president who–instead of trying to unite us to pull together to get through this pandemic–instead encourages division and eggs on those who want life to quickly go back to the way it was.

It’s exhausting! It wears us out…and we sometimes just want to dig a hole, jump in, and pull it in after us so we don’t have to deal with all this “stuff” any more.

But we can’t afford to do that.

We have to keep supporting science-based information. We have to keep listening to those who are dealing with this virus on the front lines–to what they are telling us to do in order to try to keep everyone safe.

We have to keep working to share what is true–not what someone wishes is true.

Living in an alternate fantasy universe where you can just snap your fingers and have things change is a nice dream, but it’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality. Reality is messy…difficult…and definitely doesn’t always go the way we hope it would.

This pandemic isn’t through with us yet–as much as we might like it to be.

We have to keep on keeping on. Take a rest when needed…and then get back up. We have to listen to those whose life experiences have taught them how to be resilient through continued trauma. We have to support each other in those things that are true and positive. We have to stand tall–and speak out against those things that put down others…that create a toxic environment.

We have to keep on keeping on.

…for in their welfare resides your welfare.

The title of this blog is a portion of a statement from some counsel given to my faith tradition back in 2007. There is more that precedes it; I’ve talked about that part of it before (dealing with immigrants and refugees) and probably will again–but this time I want to just focus on this phrase.

We’re living in a time and situation that’s unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. The closest we can come to it is looking back at the 1918 pandemic–for most of us, a couple of generations removed.

It’s not an easy time. People are upset and worried about the future–rightfully so. Many have lost loved ones and are mourning–both for the loss and for the fact that they weren’t able to be with them as they died. Children have lost the opportunity to interact with schoolmates–and for some, the closing of schools has also meant the loss of a safe place. Parents are struggling with how to work at home (if that’s what they’re currently doing) while also keeping children occupied. Or if they’re considered essential workers, they’re concerned about child care.

And then there are the many who are essential workers…who are on the front lines of dealing with this pandemic…who worry not just for the people they treat but also for their own and their families’ health.

Mayors and governors are making hard decisions to try to keep people safe. They’re often decisions that no one is happy about…that some feel go too far.

People who were overlooked have become important to us…those in service industries who struggle with surviving on minimum wages…migrants who do the hard work of picking crops…

So what do we do? How do we behave?

We do not live in a bubble. Maybe we used to be able to say that–but nations and people are interconnected now in ways that could not even be imagined in 1918.

And that’s why I think this title phrase is so important.

If…when…we see our interconnectedness, we will see that all people and the jobs they do are important to and for us. We will see the inequities in our own communities and nation…and begin making the changes required to bring justice and equity. We will begin to truly see our brothers and sisters.

This statement is a contemporary stating of the prophets’ call through the ages…and also a contemporary version of what Christians call the Golden Rule–a version of which is found in every major religion.

Our welfare affects the welfare of those around us…and their welfare affects us. We must learn to live that…or we will die.


Holy Week…2020

This week between Palm Sunday and Easter is going to be unlike any Holy Week most of us have ever experienced.

Normally we would have gathered in large groups yesterday…watched (and perhaps joined with) children parading around the sanctuary, waving palm branches in memory of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

We would be gathering together for Maundy Thursday services, sharing in commemoration of that last supper.

Many of us would be sharing in a Tenebrae service on Friday night as we go into the darkness.

And then we would be gathering in more large groups, celebrating the Resurrection with family and friends…enjoying Easter egg hunts and dinners with family…

But not this year.

This year most of us are staying home…unless there is an urgent need to go out for groceries or medications.

We are not getting to see each other face-to-face. Some of us have been able to share in services via Zoom or other media platforms, and while that’s provided some wonderful opportunities, it’s not quite the same.

But maybe this week is allowing us to experience more truly what that first Holy Week was. There weren’t large crowds at the events. People were worried, uncertain of what the future was going to hold.

Some of you may have seen this post by Rev. Allison Lanza on Facebook. But if you haven’t, I think it’s an important read…something to ponder as we go through this Holy Week.

The very first Easter was not in a crowded worship space with singing and praising. On the very first Easter the disciples were locked in their house. It was dangerous for them to come out. They were afraid. They wanted to believe the good news they heard from the women, that Jesus had risen. But it seemed too good to be true. They were living in a time of such despair and such fear. If they left their homes their lives and the lives of their loved ones might be at risk. Could a miracle really have happened? Could life really had won out over death? Could this time of terror and fear really be coming to an end?

Alone in their homes they dared to believe that hope was possible, that the long night was over and morning had broken, that God’s love was the most powerful of all, even though it didn’t seem quite real yet. Eventually, they were able to leave their homes, when the fear and danger had subsided, they went around celebrating and spreading the good news that Jesus was risen and love was the most powerful force on the earth.

This year, we might get to experience a taste of what that first Easter was like, still in our homes daring to believe that hope is on the horizon. Then, after a while, when it is safe for all people, when it is the most loving choice, we will come out, gathering together, singing and shouting the good news that God brings life even out of death, that love always has the final say.

This year we might get the closest taste we have had yet to what that first Easter was like.