Not a shame inducing guilt trip, an opportunity

Oppression appears to be everywhere.  I hear about it in the news, see it in my Facebook stream, it’s mentioned at church, and driving past the “lingerie” shops (with “hot, nude girls”) near our house – all of these are constant reminders that oppression is rampant.  As a result, I feel like I am constantly having to evaluate whether or not to join in on opportunities to help oppressed people.  Providing clean water for those who don’t have access to it.  Helping out people who have escaped bondage in the sex trade.  Adopting orphans from impoverished countries.  Fostering children in my own community.  And so many more.  These opportunities present themselves often enough that I’ve caught myself ignoring them without any real consideration, not just for my possible involvement, but for the real, suffering people that are behind these causes.  It’s just that the needs are so overwhelming.  And so these real, suffering people, become invisible as I dismiss yet another cause begging for my time and money – and my emotions.  Because, let’s face it, thinking about oppression is an emotional drain.  It’s depressing.  I find myself avoiding “mind-blowing,” “ beautiful,” “best 3 minutes of your day,” videos that pop up in my Facebook stream because I just don’t feel like crying, and my heart has already been broken, so many times, for people in desperate need of help.

Am I getting calloused?

(pause)

I’m not indifferent.  I just think that every time I’m faced with another opportunity to help people in situations of oppression, I feel guilty if I’m just not in a position to help.  No, I think it’s worse than that.  It’s not guilt.  It’s shame.  I don’t just feel bad for the people I can’t help.  I feel like a horrible person.  Because any decent human being would help the helpless.  Well I don’t like feeling like a horrible person, so it’s just easier not to face stories of oppression.

Ignorance is bliss.

For me, maybe.  But it’s not bliss for the oppressed.

And so, as I intentionally skip past heart-wrenching and hopeful videos of the downtrodden, I am aware that there are real people I am skipping over, and in the end I still feel like a horrible person.

I have a solution to propose.  And then I am going to present you with an opportunity to do something for the oppressed, without a guilt-trip, and hopefully without shame.

My solution is based on the reality that my gut-reaction of shame every time I can’t help a person in need is not realistic.  No single person could possibly champion every single victim of oppression, and every humanitarian cause.  That includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and any other unimaginably wealthy person that comes to mind.  But I do believe that every single person can choose to support at least one thing to make a difference.  The idea is to find that one thing that moves you and inspires you to take action.  All the rest are great opportunities for others to connect with deeply, and there should be no shame in recognizing your limits.  Ideally, you could even help promote them without feeling hypocritical about your own lack of involvement.  Also, there’s no reason why this “one thing” idea couldn’t lead to another, and another thing.  But I already wrote about that here.  The real trick is remaining sensitive to the plight of people while being realistic about who you choose to help, without either becoming heartless or feeling like a horrible person.  Sounds simple, right???

I said I would share an opportunity for you to do something for the oppressed, remember?  Here is my no-pressure, do-something-but-be-realistic, pitch:

Following my desire to find ways to help the oppressed around the world, I started working with International Teams, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to “bring people together to help the oppressed.”  ITeams’ presence is global.  ITeams’ focus is on the downtrodden, and its approach is community transformation.  I love that it believes that to truly help someone out of their low station, the community must be strengthened in order to make a lasting difference.  Jessica and I are working to bring artists together to explore how we can use our voice, our art and our platform to speak up for the oppressed.  This pursuit is called Initiative 31.8.

On October 5th, I am participating in an event called Ride for Refuge, where I join thousands across the U.S. as we hop on a bike and ride for a cause.  My cause is Initiative 31.8, and I am looking for two things: people to sponsor me as I ride, and people to hop on a bike with me and ask their networks to sponsor them as they also ride for Initiative 31.8.  By doing either of these, you can support the work of ITeams (and my Initiative 31.8 piece of that) as we speak up for the oppressed in places like India, Uganda, and even Portland, Oregon.  My personal goal is to raise $2,000. Our recent move really threw a wrench in my plans to get this information out to you sooner, but I believe I can reach my goal with your help.  Please take a moment to consider if this is one thing (or maybe even one thing more) that you could do to make a difference in the world.  And if this doesn’t feel like the right cause for you, I encourage you to keep looking until you find something that really moves you.  Either way, could you pass this on, in case this is just the thing for someone else?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and consider the thoughts and ideas of this, your humble idealist.  Let’s make the world a better place, together!

~ Jeremy

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