How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
― Anne Frank
I emerged from my mother’s womb demanding justice. My poor sister, Julie, 21 months my junior had no say in the matter. She and I, counted and doled the M&M’s with precision, we switched without debate who rode in the front seat. Our UNO games ran fair and square, except when one of us lined our hand with the “dirty cards” while the other went to the bathroom. Snacks were meted to the smallest crumb, money loaned and repaid, birthday gifts exchanged to the dollar. Never was there a discrepancy I did not announce with fanfare and righteous indignation. My life, our relationship, demanded even-steven equality.
A quest for righteousness was pre-programmed into my genetic code. As I gained my voice and courage, my activism carried into the public sphere. At the age of thirteen, our local Fuddruckers restaurant in Orange County received my clear statement of disgust on a comment card: I know what you are trying to do, it will not work. I will not use the “F” word. Please consider changing the name of this restaurant. I was absolutely incensed. A dining establishment could intentionally coerce me into using this queen of all curse words.
A few years later, while attending my alma mater, a conservative Christian university (the perfect breeding ground for good girls with stellar Bible handling skills, a love for Jesus, and serious guilt complexes), I had another opportunity to display my voracious drive toward justice. I distributed and circulated petitions to protest the removal of pews from our precious Goodwin Chapel. Someone had the audacity to propose stackable chairs as a replacement to the well-worn, uncomfortable benches laden with nostalgia and tradition. After acquiring a couple hundred signatures, I plopped my stack on the pastor’s desk, fleeing without a word. My justice seeking has limits.
The firehose of news has taken its toll. Last week, I was tired and bereft. I felt useless and helpless, ineffective and unworthy. My powerlessness to change anything was acute and any hope of optimism was waning fast. I miss the days when news was not a mandate as the same stories circulated for weeks. I miss the days of balancing information with life, rather than life balanced by information. The load has been heavy and my heart heavy with it.
For all the talk of resistance, one may get hung up on notions of marches and letter writing campaigns and phone calls and angry, activist-y rants. But our most powerful resistance has little to do with our usefulness or our anger or our righteousness or our pursuit of justice. Our finest, most impactful resistance dwells within the work we were created to do, determined by our gifts and desires. Once we can recognize the power of receiving joy, hope, love – we become equipped for the greatest, most life-giving challenge. The beautiful and complex work of loving our neighbors well.
As we live into our calling, into our desires and generosity, we become the Resistance. When we know beyond any doubt how loved we are – we become an unassailable force of good. Evil shudders at our powerful impact.
Friday evening we held our fourth Community Dinner*. Forty-five people stuffed into my modest home, as the rain fell on a dreary May evening. Forty-five people ate and drank and told stories and laughed – altogether in the coziness of my living room and kitchen. Forty-five people chose joy and hope, too.
Our resistance is held in the collision of our desires and gifts, where wonder and awe proclaim the work of God, where laughter and hope find a place at the tables of our communities. I love my community dinners. I love the people piled into my home, spilling into the kitchen and out the doors. I love the kids wandering amongst the adults, teenagers on their phones, plates piled high in the sink. I love my living room turned dining room, with my couch on the back porch and my bedroom full of coats and purses, I love the mismatched silverware and the thrift store dishes. This is my resistance – doing what I love with what I have.
While I did not win the pew challenge, nor did Fuddruckers alter their brand, I spoke, I listened to the knot in my gut. My motivations well-intentioned and certain, regardless of outcome.
You will still find me marching, joining new organizations, attending meetings. I will make calls and write letters. But my best resistance is creating spaces for stories around food and drink, in a brick mid-century ranch, surrounded by old and new friends. My anger will continue, my frustration will remain, but my quest for hope, my lust for joy, my forward lean into Love is where my best expression dwells.
Resist onward, friends.
*If you are reading this and you live nearby, near Boulder County, CO, you are welcome to join us for dinner. We gather the third Friday of each month. Shoot me an email if you’d like to get on the list.