Time has a funny way of flying by when you aren’t looking…
This weekend was our second retreat for JVC Northwest, with a focus on social justice. Over 70 JV’s from the Cascades region headed to Anderson Lodge in Washington from Friday to Monday; the retreat was facilitated by a teacher from Jesuit High School in Portland who spent some time as a Maryknoll Missionary and was in service for four years in Chile. It came at the perfect time for many, myself included, as life in community and in service can get to be a bit overwhelming.
We’re past our six month mark, settled into our placements and into routines in community. We were able to examine, some for the first time, our work in relation to “charity” and “justice.”
The Two Feet of Social Action are a tool that Kathleen Meyers, the retreat facilitator, used to examine the way in which we view service in action. The idea behind it is that charity and justice are the moving parts of social action and one cannot exist without the other. Each step we take in social action is a step of charity, followed by a step of justice, or vice versa.
Charity is defined as more direct social services, like soup kitchens and cold weather coat drives, whereas justice is enacting structural change, looking to rectify problems within the proverbial “system.” As I examined my work with environmental stewardship, it was difficult not to compare it to more concrete social services, like outreach to homeless youth or advocacy for domestic violence survivors. However, I chatted with another JV, living in Seattle and working for the People of Puget Sound. We had a great discussion about tree planting and restoration work as the charity part of social action and the environmental education and community stewardship as the pieces of justice within the system.
Overall, the weekend provided great space for silent meditation, reflection and conversation about our world and the world beyond us. Meals were all cooked by each house and it was wonderful to share so many great meals, such a constant flow of great food! (Calories don’t count on retreat, if I remember correctly…) We were in the middle of fantastic Doug Fir forests with crisp and clean mountain air to breathe in.
We enjoyed each others’ silliness with a coffeehouse and impromptu kitchen dance parties; in some ways, it felt like I was back in college again. How grateful I am for all of the wonderful people I am sharing this year of my life with, the difficult conversations we had, the laughter that rang through the retreat house, and of course, the time and space to be silent and step away to look at the larger picture. To step into those difficult questions of “Who am I?” “Whose am I?” “Who am I called to be?” that we are too busy for in our everyday. How blessed are we for opportunities like these…