As we enter the season when folks think about peace and goodwill toward all, I am struck by the many times folks have an opportunity to make a difference to actually change things — or at least make a dent in injustice — but when they are confronted with the opportunity, they pass.
Everyone on some level, I believe, knows that we live in a society and in a world that is desperately in need of change. Our society in particular is clearly in need of more love and concern and compassion.
Most people want to see their neighbors do well. I think it’s safe to say that most folks think that people should be able to eat, have clean drinking water, shelter, clothing and work that provides a sufficient living as well as dignity.
However, hoping for change doesn’t really count. Hoping that folks in Third-World countries can get clean drinking water is a start, but it won’t change anything. Hoping that everyone can eat and have a roof over their heads won’t change anything.
Unfortunately, nothing changes unless somebody or something changes. The world won’t get any better if we just let it be. To quote Teddy Pendergrass in “Wake Up Everybody,” “We got to change it, y’all, just you and me” the song says.
I recall during the anti-Apartheid struggle years ago how many folks tried to help our brothers and sisters held down under that evil system by launching a divestment campaign here in the States. I will never forget how, when we would talk to business folks about not selling Krugerrand or divesting a South African company from their portfolio, they would all say, “We believe in the cause,” yet many refused to divest or stop selling Krugerrand.
In essence, they didn’t believe in the cause, because they weren’t willing to even present our case to their bosses. And some just didn’t want to interrupt the flow of money-making.
I recently experienced a few instances where folks gave lip service to a cause, but when confronted with an opportunity to actually do something for the cause they chose to hold onto a personal grievance. And that’s probably why things will likely remain the same in our lifetimes, because no one is willing to make any sacrifices. They think it’s more important to place their perceived slight or personal grievance above the needs of another human being.
In one instance, a homeowner was trying to hold on to her house. The bank assigned a woman of color to look into whether the homeowner was a good candidate for a loan modification. The agent was quite helpful to the homeowner, working diligently on her behalf. But when the woman found out that the homeowner appeared to have inadvertently tied her bank to a negative occurrence at her house, the woman of color gave up on the case and stopped helping the homeowner.
I understand how many can side with the woman whose company seemed to be unfairly smeared by an incident that had nothing to do with the bank. The company agent could take offense because her company had been smeared. Or she could have overlooked the unintended slight and continued to help the homeowner, who ironically had already been misled and wrongly foreclosed upon by the bank.
Let me be clear: The agent has every right to disassociate herself from the case and maybe even feel offended on behalf of her company. But she will have no right when the day of reckoning comes — which it surely will — to complain, as the homeowner does, about a courtesy that could have been but was not extended to her.
My point is that you can always do the right thing!
Recently in the Twin Cites a group of young, spirited activists tried to make the point that housing is a right and tried to put some displaced folks into housing. They messed it up badly. They took over a house that had indeed been abandoned. The poor homeowner had been pushed out by one of the big banks and had pulled up stakes.
The activists thought the abandoned house would be a good place to put abandoned people who lacked shelter. Unfortunately, though the homeowner had clearly abandoned the house and was living elsewhere, she still had an emotional attachment to the house and technically, because the redemption period had not lapsed, she still owned the property.
So she brought in the police and angrily denounced the young do-gooders, demanding that they leave the house that she is no longer living in. She did this while saying she believed in the cause, and that homeless folks should have a place to stay, but not in the house that she had abandoned, not in the house that she wasn’t living in any more, not in the house the bank put her out of!
Yes, you can always do the right thing!
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.