I’ve found a great group of like-minded community friends in Denver who get together a couple times a month to talk about social justice issues. In particular, hunger. We are all volunteers at a local food bank and are reaching out to other food banks and community groups to organize events to encourage similar opportunities to have conversation.
It seems there is a considerable lack of civil conversation these days. I’d guess our inability to disagree with each other without calling names or raising our voices and other notable lapses of basic manners are linked to our strained sense of community. Once we become comfortable not bothering to know our neighbors — much less help care for them — it is far easier to let the door swing shut in the stranger’s face behind us. Flip someone off in traffic. Roll your eyes at the overwhelmed mother struggling with her children. Look the other way when you see someone being abused, or going hungry.
And so, I call baloney. Baloney to anyone who says that is the type of community you want to live in. Baloney to those who say we can’t do something to change this. And baloney to those who laugh at the “naive” and “innocent” energies of those who want to create serious social change. While it may be easier to dismiss those around you trying to do something, we aren’t going to do any good from the comfort of the couch.
Coming together with folks who want to see their community strengthened is rad. I love hearing the wild and varied ideas for events and passions everyone brings to the table. We are all interested in improving the ability of this food pantry to reach those who are hungry in metro Denver. Yet fundamentally, we are more troubled by the social failings that has the queue in the front door snaking farther down the sidewalk each week.
How do we fix poverty? How do we get our neighbors to care about their community? How do we reverse social involvement apathy? By inviting more friends to the conversation, spending more time getting to know clients of the food pantry, investing a bit of money in local charities who are doing sustainable work for long-term change and reviewing and advocating for policy.
And perhaps most important: being willing to listen to varied voices. I spent time yesterday with a self-described “radically right conservative” who leads a food bank in northern Colorado. He was one of the most well-spoken, compassionate people I’ve ever heard talk about hunger. And he had some fantastic ideas that would have likely been brushed under the rug by this “all loving” liberal who obviously has some work to do on her pigeon-holed views.
I’m this fired up after one happy hour. Oh, dear Denver. Tempe should have given you a heads up about my crazed, focused, overly-optimistic ways.
To a hunger-free, socially-just infinity and beyond!