Building a movement, embracing sacrifice

During the first seven years of A Wider Circle, I would often spend weekends going from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. picking up and delivering furniture. I am sure my back hurts so much not just from sleeping on an old couch every night but also from having done all that lifting – at a fairly advanced age. The guys who do this work here now are incredible, some making this kind of effort five days a week, not just one or two.

And as an organization, we do the heavy lifting every single day – more than 4,000,000 pounds of stuff moved every year. And managing that complex process while developing intensive education and job training programs, holding large events, leading 15,000 volunteers, and doing everything else involved in running a growing organization is what we are supposed to do – it is what you do when you need a movement. We speak to volunteer groups Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. and then again Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. We speak to groups in the community at 7:00 a.m. on a Friday and 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, and we go wherever we are asked to go to help those in need or to engage others to help.

People always tell us to slow down – they have for more than a decade. But the thing is, the need is not to slow down. The need is to go faster. Just ask any girl abused last night simply because she lives in poverty. Ask any boy who wonders what the heck he is going to do tonight that will make his life better. Ask any mother who watches them both and swallows her deep despair.

If we have learned anything from the Selma anniversary, the Civil Rights movement as a whole, or Women’s Suffrage, it is that we need to sacrifice. Work-life balance has nothing to do with going to the front of the line and walking across that bridge so you can be beaten by others. These young and old Americans practiced being beaten, and we need to embody that today, not be reasonable and cautious and worry about burn-out.

These are our fellow human beings, they are our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. We are all deeply interconnected. Only small vision keeps us from seeing that. And we need to live and act like they are our brothers and sisters – and mothers and fathers.

Nothing else will work; have we not learned that, too? Small victories have been overwhelmed by large numbers of people being born into poverty.  Yes, we manage poverty, as many now say. We move poverty. Those are not acceptable solutions. We need to end poverty.

That takes commitment. And when we make that commitment, we become fully alive and fully human. The reason we do it, however, is so that others can be fully alive and fully human.

That is why we need – right now – to ignite the movement to end poverty. We need to see the finish line and sprint toward it, as if our lives depend on it. I promise you they do.

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