Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17 (NIV)
Wondering where I’ve been? I went to a conference on civil liberties sponsored by our state humanities council and our local school board. I helped organize workshops for a group of two dozen fifth, eighth and eleventh grade teachers this year through a Teaching American History grant and as a reward, was invited to attend the seminar with them. I’m really glad I went because my eyes were opened to a lot of things I did not know about our country’s past. It was also a chance to sharpen my mind which has become a bit dulled by years sitting behind a desk pushing paper. Civil liberties can be a controversial subject, but our instructor did a great job forcing us to think outside the box without imposing his way of thought upon us. He did it through bringing in the lives of every day ordinary people who became extraordinary by their willingness to take a stand for what they believed was right. We started with Henry David Thoreau who I had always thought of as a crack pot. After wading through Civil Disobedience, I began to think differently. What struck me the most were his statements that if we don’t participate in righting a wrong, we are just as guilty as the one committing the injustice. That theme stayed with me through the seminar as we progressed to Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and their determination to picket the White House and endure jail. There, they were tortured and force-fed raw eggs and milk through tubes in their noses after going on a hunger strike. Why were they willing to do that? So that women like me could have the right to vote. It happened here in America less than one hundred years ago. How often have I taken that privilege for granted? How could I have just thought it happened naturally without so much of a struggle? Similar stories emerged about pacifists, African-Americans, journalists, and Native Americans. All who, despite the fact that we pride ourselves being a country built on freedom, had to either fight to gain rights or fight to keep the ones that they had. Many were willing to give their lives for the causes they so passionately believed in. After hearing about all these people who did so much for so many with little recognition in the history books, it made me wonder, where have I been that I missed so much not only in my studies, but in my life? It made me think that there are many people to whom I should be grateful for the privileges I have, yet I live complacently without a backward glance at the ones who gave me such a gift. Sometimes, I do the same to Jesus. He died so I might live, not just on this earth, but eternally in heaven. Have you given it much thought about where you would be without Him? Think about His sacrifice and what it means for you.