Monday, September 29, 2014

Social Justice

One of our electives this fall is Social Justice.  We are using the 6 part series titled Seeking Social Justice produced by the Heritage Foundation and offered free by Compass Classroom.  
Social justice is "justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society".
Social justice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last time I checked The United States of America is NOT a socialist country, even though we are moving steadily in that direction.  Social justice is NOT the distribution of resources in the hopes of achieving equality and therefore a “just” society.  This is NOT the definition I want my girls to internalize when they go out into the world.  Seeking Social Justice has helped us to create our own family definition of social Justice:

Social Justice is identifying a need in the community and devoting one’s available time, money and resources to affect a lasting change in the identified community.  It is not forced, but offered of free will.  It is not a mandate, but rather a commitment to walking in the path of Jesus Christ. 
                                                     ~our family definition 
The first part of Seeking Social Justice identifies that most people in need are in need because of a breakdown in relationships in their lives and the resulting attempt to fill their need with people/substances that cannot produce a positive outcome.  

The remaining episodes address each one of the relationships:
  • Rethinking Social Justice | Trevecca Nazarene University (Intro)
  • Cultivating Justice from the Ground Up | HIS Bridgebuilders (Marriage)
  • Serving the Whole Person | Leesburg Baptist Church (Church)
  • Restoring Dignity and Purpose | Men of Valor Prison Ministry (Work)
  • Maintaining the Social Conditions for Justice | Shyima's Story (Government)
  • Breaking Ground | Summary (Individuals)

We have watched the first three episodes.  They can take us anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on how much discussion and explanation is necessary for the girls to  ask their questions and come to their own understanding.  A half credit is 60 hours so this alone will not fulfill a credit or half credit.  When I think of subjects I like to look at what the girls are already doing, interested in and think of how we can expand on it, explode it really, and dig deep into the understanding behind it.  

Our family has participated in monthly dinners at a local homeless shelter for a few years.  We serve once or twice a year but have never been responsible for coordinating a dinner.  Through our church, a need was identified: serving the homeless a warm, homemade meal.   That sounds a lot like our definition of social justice.  But how could our family affect lasting change?

Serving one dinner, once a month may not make a life changing impact on the residents.  However, serving a dinner once a month in conjunction with several other churches and civic organization who are also serving one dinner a month, allows the agency that runs the shelter to operate.  It allows them to continue to make an impact in the lives of the residents by connecting them with resources to help overcome the damaged relationships in their lives and begin to replace the things they have sought out, specifically drugs and alcohol with new beginnings, new relationships and new opportunities.  

Here is where we can take our at home learning and connect it to life.  What we learn on these episodes plays out before us when we are at the shelter.  We spoke to a young man, younger than us, who have had a marriage collapse and because he used money as a vehicle for happiness, he lost everything.    There is no more powerful experience than to take your knowledge and understanding and apply it to life and see if what you thought you knew is really in fact true.  It is for this reason that these videos are one of my favorite curriculum elements this year.

When I offered our family to host this month’s dinner, I had hoped it would be another experience that stayed with us.  This was the first time I was responsible for the meal planning, the cooking, the serving and the coordinating with the shelter staff.  Up until now we had always accompanied other families who had more experience with this ministry.  My sister in law joined us and together we cooked sloppy joes, macaroni & cheese which was served with watermelon and lots of desserts.  We estimate about 25 people were served.  

Prior to this dinner Lilah and her friends gathered at our house to create bookmarks made from card stock paper they painted, cut, decorated and wrote on.  Since all the girls are Catholic, they were all very comfortable writing scripture on the cards.  I sealed the bookmarks with Mod Podge and they were given freely.  To see a resident accept a meal and choose a bookmark and exclaim “I am worthy!” is a powerful experience.  Hopefully we have a small part in filling a person’s spirit with the positive affirmation of God’s love for us.

This dinner took 6 credit hours.  3 for the actual dinner, 2 for baking and 1 for bookmark creation.  So far we have 7.5 hours towards 60 required for a half credit.  But more importantly, far more important than the “credit” is the understanding that they will carry with them for a lifetime.


Claire said...

I admire the volunteer work your family has done and I admire that you are teaching your children to think about social justice. But I can’t help but feel as I read this that you hold yourself above other people. You like the idea that you get to decide who to help and how to help them, you like being benevolent, but have you ever thought about this from the perspective of the person you are helping?

The United States is nowhere near a socialist country and I find it disturbing that you are exposing your children to such an extremist view. People work hard whether they are CEOs or clerks and everyone should be compensated for full time work at a wage that allows them to be independent of government and charity. While I see that some people make poor choices with their money and I agree with you that issue needs to be addressed, it’s dangerous to think that everyone who needs financial help has made poor choices. It is NOT social justice when upper tier of management is doubling and tripling their income while doing nothing to increase the income of the lower level employees.

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Claire, I am sorry that you took away the impression that I hold myself above other people. That was never the intention I hoped to convey. I hold true to my conservative values, of personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberties, strong national defense and traditional American values. When American citizens were mandated to purchase a commodity (insurance) or face fines (“taxes”) I believe this was a fundamental shift away from free markets, away from American Values, away from personal responsibility and individual liberties, thus moving us in a markedly new direction. When income redistribution is involved, this is a hallmark of a socialist economy.

In no way did I state that every person who is in need is in need due to poor choices. Breakdown in marital relationships, family relationships, spiritual relationships, business relationships all cause a type of spiritual and in some cases, financial poverty. Our church chose this ministry and it has been ongoing for over 10 years. My girls are now old enough to participate in this ministry and I am proud to watch them serve. And yes, I have thought much about the feelings and perspectives of the people being served through my work here, my work as at a family residential shelter, my work with at risk youth, and my work in the public school system.

When my children read your comment, I’m sure they will question your tone. To them I will say that our family remains true to our beliefs, our faith, and each other. We welcome discourse, but this blog has always been and always will be a record of our family history.

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