“Why did you do it?”
“For those that were unborn. For you. Because even though you weren’t born yet, we loved you and we wanted a better world for you.”
Diane Nash spoke these words to us on our first day at the Newseum in Washington, DC. We had just finished watching the beautiful documentary Freedom Riders by Stanley Nelson, and we were now listening to a panel discussion on the movie and the emotions behind the Rides. When Nash said that she was part of the movement because of love, my heart skipped a beat.
Regardless of one’s faith or beliefs, Jesus the historical figure was a man who strived for social justice. He was the ultimate revolutionary. In reaching out to the marginalized and rebuking the oppressors, he exemplified what it means to truly love other human beings and to respect the dignity of the human person. I strive to follow in this example of love, and it motivates much of my outlook and the social change that I seek. In my introductory video, I said that I thought love was what was behind the civil rights movement. In my opinion, when people approach service and social change with the right intentions, love is always behind it – whether one is conscious of it or not.
What else would sustain someone taking a beating in hope that it will change the status quo for someone else they’ve never met? It doesn’t matter what God you believe in or don’t believe in – there were Freedom Riders of all religious and non-religious backgrounds. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is – there were lots of white Freedom Riders as well. And as Diane Nash proves, it doesn’t matter whether or not you will live to see the person you’re impacting. All that matters is that you share a common humanity, and the innate ability to have compassion can drive you to develop an eye for and a love of that common humanity.
So often today, I see people separating themselves and building walls because they perceive others to be different. We see it in our airports during the “random” security checks, we see it in Arizona with the dehumanization of people born a couple miles across an artificial border, and we see it on the news and in our communities when people celebrate the death of a human being. It’s hard to remember, but we need to try and remind ourselves that we share a common humanity. We need to strive to follow the examples of people who love fiercely and indiscriminately – people like the Freedom Riders and Diane Nash. Or if you can identify, people like Jesus.
Thanks for reading,