I’m not familiar with politics or the processes that make our country function, nonetheless I arrived in D.C. the other day to join the Nuns on the Bus from Network for their first lobby day. Joining other sisters from around the country to talk to our representatives about the next budget and future tax reform was a very new experience and a little bewildering. As we gathered for prayer and training I found myself immersed in acronyms and jargon, like sequestration, and some of it sounded a bit foreign to me. Fortunately for this mission work, as Sr. Simone called it, knowing the ins and outs of politics was not paramount, instead our focus was to share the stories from the front lines and give names and faces to the people directly affected by these policies. From the soup kitchen I shared my relationship with one man who, once he was supported by a case worker, was able to get into permanent housing and gain access to the services he needed. Through public human needs programs this man gained stability in his life and no longer used about a million dollars worth of emergency services annually. Meeting people like this in my ministry experiences has helped me to see the value of investing in our neighbors through programs because everyone deserves a dignified life, and it is better for the community in the long run.
I was surprised yesterday at the positive reception we received as we bounced from office to office. A few people we met with made a point of saying just how much it mattered when constituents came to visit, as well as the importance of writing or calling about issues. I was surprised to know that calls and letters were tallied and thus added weight to the decisions being made. I guess I have more of a voice in politics than I ever thought.
My experience this week reminded me of the story of Jesus placing a child in the midst of his disciples (MT 18:2-5). A child in that context was a silent and invisible member of society. Like Jesus we have the power to place the silenced and invisible persons we know into the spotlight hopefully highlighting the issues in our communities which should not be ignored. After what I’ve learned and experienced this week I think I’ll feel much more comfortable and empowered to call my representative when I am next called upon to reach out to my representatives. I’ve got plenty of stories to share. How about you?