We march for racial equality; for candidates and against candidates; for women’s rights; for refugees; for immigration; for border walls and for no border walls. We march for causes that affect a few and causes that affect many. Some marches are joyful, and some are filled with sadness and pain. Some marches destroy businesses, homes and cars while others are peaceful. Some stop traffic. Some perpetuate caustic and potentially unrealistic perspectives, while others promote excitement and hope.
But, at the end of the day…what happens when the march is over? What happens to the children, the women, the immigrants, the refugees and the causes we marched for? What happens to the racial divide we hope to bridge and the politicians we hope to silence? What happens when we go home to our families and our lives…when the march is over?
I am not a demonstrative person. A personal philosophy of mine is, “When you know what red tape you are facing, figure out a way to cut through it.” Red tape doesn’t go away through demonstration. Most often it becomes a red ravine with ‘we-uns’ on one side and ‘you-uns’ on the other. We polarize and spew disbelief and hate at those who don’t think the way we think or believe the solutions we propose. The more we demonstrate, the deeper the ravine becomes until we can’t even see that our way is not the only game in town. We become encapsulated in a solution that solves our agenda without realizing that said solution may be cause for another to demonstrate just as earnestly and violently as we just did.
You see, we are not all the same. We all come into life innocent and full of hope. Life, then, pulls us in a myriad of directions to form us into the people we are today. For some, life is full of freedom and trust. For others it is merely something to survive. Some are strong, while others succumb to less desirable paths simply to make it from day to day. Marches happen when the stronger people see the injustices placed on others and take on the cause to improve opportunities for the marginalized. That is a noble cause!
However, I continue to ask – What happens when the march is over?
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, ‘what are you doing for others?'”
When the march is over, what are we doing to promote our cause? What are we doing to improve racial relations? Are we lifting men and women in poverty up so that they are able to find the freedom from financial devastation? Are we teaching and mentoring children who are struggling with horrible home lives to see the value in who they are as individuals in this world? Are we doing something as simple as meeting our neighbors?
Unfortunately, when the march is over, many will go home and talk about the march as if the event alone will improve deplorable conditions. They will build a coalition of people who think as they do and march again and again, just to prove a point.
But, what does the march do for those in need of change?
John F. Kennedy aptly said, “No amount of laws can make a man do right.”
We can lobby congress, meticulously select judges, and write platforms at caucuses. We can campaign for our candidates and put signs in our yards. Yet, all of this is simply relying on others to do what we should be doing ourselves. Each and every one of us has the ability to roll up our sleeves and to start or join organizations focused on giving hope to those who have none. It can be a food pantry, a youth program, substance abuse mentoring, volunteer tutoring, prison counseling or simply participating in an organization with people who see life differently than you do because of who they are and where they come from.
And – we need to do it without judgment. We all have a story to tell. When we listen to others tell the story of who they are and where they come from , we will expand our compassion beyond our limited experiences and see the world through a different lens. Little by little we all will grow together as God’s people, loving others as we love ourselves.
The march may or may not be step one. What I know for sure is that work needs to happen when the march is over. The surest way for change to occur is when we step outside of our lives and enter into the lives of others as individuals who care, who can offer hope, and who can help one another navigate this crazy thing called life. The challenge is staggering, but it can happen if we take it one step at a time and, quite realistically, one person at a time. Mistakes will be made and we will all need to seek forgiveness and grace…one step at a time, one person at a time.
Where will you be when the march is over?
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ and I said, ‘Here I am, Lord.'” Isaiah 6:8