Today is International Human Rights Day. For today's blog, I am borrowing from the words of Dr. Coral Matus who was recently reflecting on the book "Toxic Charity".
Dr. Coral explains: " The idea is that Mercy (compassion, kindness) without Justice (reasonable fairness in the way people are treated) causes dependency (in the receiver) and a sense of power (in the giver over the receiver), while Justice without Mercy becomes cold and impersonal. (One simple example is: Mercy without Justice is giving a dollar to a street beggar without knowing if it will be used for food, or to feed his addiction. Justice without Mercy is walking past him, and giving money to the local addiction prevention organization and expecting them to help him. Combining the two would mean forming a Relationship with him, inviting him to breakfast, asking him what he needs to meet his own personal goals, telling him that you believe in him and are rooting for him and praying for him and will help keep him accountable. It is encouraging him to be the person God means for him to be, not imposing your wishes for him).
Jesus asks us to be Weavers, to weave together the threads of Justice and Mercy by meeting the stranger, the hungry one, the thirsty one, the blind one.
These questions of Justice and Mercy and Relationships are constant in my work with SewHope. There are no easy answers.
For example: By the grace of God, 393 persons have had vision screenings since March 2013. Thirty-eight of them need some kind of follow-up which means at least one visit to the eye clinic in San Benito. The people come from Mango, Santa Ana or Purushila. To drive from Santa Ana to Mango and from Mango to San Benito and then reverse the trip takes a minimun of 4.5 hours. And that is just the driving. If a person is in need of surgery, the person needs to be in San Benito at 7:00 am. It takes a considerable amount of gas to make this trip. And gas costs money. It would take all day for me to accomplish this task. And I have many tasks. (For Purushila, the driving time is 2.5 hours; for Santa Ana 1 hour).
Should I take the people to the eye clinic? Does SewHope apply Mercy and allow me to pick up the people and take them to San Benito for the cost of gasoline and a day of ministry? Does SewHope apply Justice and say that we did our part by getting them tested, now they need to follow through? And what are the alternatives? What is a reasonable level of kindness (assuming that kindness can be measured).
Very, very, very few of the 100 adults in Purushila have a car. Some have a motorcycle. If there is a need to get somewhere, there is a school bus that runs to and from Purushila to Santa Ana and back once a day at scheduled times. From there, the person would need to take another bus and then another vehicle to get to San Benito. The bus leaves Purushila at about 10:00 am....too late for a 7:00 appointment. How else are the people who have been identified as needing help to get there? There just aren't too many options. So asking them to do it themselves is condemning them to sightlessness. Would you want your mother to ride home on the back of a motorcycle for this distance after having cataract surgery?
Perhaps a clue is the use of the word "they"; "they need to follow through". "They" is impersonal, cold, and demonstrates a lack of Mercy. But if we put a name, a face, and a Relationship with each person, the question becomes simpler. I will take Tecla for surgery because she is my sister, my mother, my friend. I will take Tecla for surgery because she has no other way to get there, and God has put us together for this purpose. (It is already God's MIRACLE that a professional has evaluated Tecla as needing help to see! Tecla lives in the middle of nowhere...literally.)
I'm thinking that Orfe and Ismael and Hanssel and Elvin and I are asked to be Weavers. We are asked to meet individuals as God sends them to us (Justice...not walking by) and help them in the name of Jesus with the resources of SewHope. The persons are paying for the services (see the blog of November 29, 2013); we are simply helping to make the services available (Mercy). My interaction with Tecla is the weaving of Justice with Mercy.
That Tecla and those like her have no other options is a sign that SewHope is indeed in the places where the poor are. With love, this service brings blessings to all.
The "train question" seals the deal for me. I am pretty sure that St. Peter is not going to ask me the famous "train question" when I am knocking on the gates of heaven. Even thinking about responding to St. Peter that I didn't take Tecla to the eye clinic because it took too much time and money, embarrasses me!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012