In my first few weeks at Stonehill, I have met some pretty inspiring students, faculty, and staff. But, as the campus minister primarily tasked with helping run our Into the Streets service program, I’ve noticed people often feel the need to apologize to me for not being as involved as they’d like to be in service. “I’m so sorry,” they often say, “I’d like to be more involved in service (or campus ministry, or x club, or y cause), but I don’t have time.”
Not enough time. That is a common refrain that I completely identify with. After commuting, working, exercising, making food, cleaning, and trying to spend time with my husband and dog, I too often feel like there just isn’t enough time left in the day for me to make a regular volunteering commitment. So I began thinking of ways people who feel very busy can make a significant impact in their local community and world.
This topic, so near and dear to my heart, will be explored by me in numerous blog posts to come – so get ready! But the first things that came to my mind were education and advocacy.
In order to educate yourself about certain issues, you might choose to watch the news, read articles online, or even listen to the radio. NPR has excellent coverage of both local and international stories. After picking up on a news story or issue that interests you (i.e. animal rights, immigration, gun violence, or hunger and homeless) do some more research on your own. Find out the real facts about it. Look for groups in your area or on campus that are working on it. Just a few minutes a day really goes a long way toward expanding your world view.
To give you an example, for days I’ve been hearing little bits and pieces on the news about the SNAP bill. It was not until today that I actually took the time to learn more about the bill and the controversy surrounding it. The following is a little snippet of what I found.
On Sept. 19th, the House of Representatives voted to cut nearly $40 billion over the next ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These cuts will begin on Nov. 1, 2013. Some 47.6 million people, more than one in seven Americans, receive this aid, formerly known as food stamps. Over 80% of SNAP recipients are women and children. The average recipient will lose $90 a month.
As you can imagine, the SNAP cuts will place a tremendous burden on those enrolled in the program, 90% of whom are already under the federal poverty line. You may have your own opinions on the ideology behind SNAP and government assistance, but as people of faith we are called to care for our brothers and sisters in need. As famous Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez once wrote, we should be concerned with the poor (and by poor I mean those whose lives lack dignity, those who will die before their time, and those whose lives lack hope) not because they are somehow better than everyone else, “but because first of all God is good and prefers the forgotten, the oppressed, the poor, the abandoned.”
After some prayerful reflection, I am committing myself to becoming more aware of issues surrounding hunger and homelessness in the U.S. I am going to send a letter (via email of course!) to my representatives letting them know that I care about and support hunger relief programs in the United States and hope they do too. I encourage you to do the same. Find a passion for justice, educate yourself and those around you about the issue, and find some way to act on it.
If you are interested in learning more about the SNAP bill or writing to your local representative about it, I found the following two links very helpful.
http://hungercliff.org/ (Short and interesting background on SNAP bill with action piece at the end)
https://secure.feedingamerica.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=105 (Easy way to get in touch with your congressional representative)
This post was written by Stonehill College campus minister Sarah Fontaine-Lipke. Please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below for more discussion!