by Conference Minister Diane Weible
What would it feel like for us to put ourselves in the shoes of another person? What if we spent more time envisioning what it would be like if we were the ones experiencing injustice, abuse, bullying, and oppression?
I read an article this past Tuesday, May 15, which was the 70th anniversary of the Nakba. Nakba means “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to the day that 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their home in the 1948 Palestine war. The author of the article, Catherine Alder, is a member of the UCC Palestine Israel Network (PIN) and lives in Oregon. Her “What If? “article asked us to imagine what it would be like if the State of Oregon was suddenly designated as the place for hundreds of thousands of persons in trouble in Europe to come to live and what if those already living there were forced out of their homes as a result. You can read the full article here. She goes on to paint a picture of what the Palestinians have endured in their own region and asked us to imagine what it would be like if the same events were to have happened in Oregon.
As I read the article my immediate reaction was, “No way, would we stand for this.” We would fight back and demand justice and reparation for the people of Oregon. We can clearly see the injustice in forcefully removing a people who own homes and have established their lives in the community. We would stand up and speak out for the people of Oregon to be restored to their rightful place.
When we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we are able to see things so much more clearly.
What happens if we found more and more ways to imagine the “what ifs?” in our society?
What if you as someone who was born in this country were to put yourself in the position of an immigrant family who has lived in this country for over a decade and for whom this may be the only home your children know? Perhaps you have tried every possible way to become a legal citizen in a system that doesn’t allow for that to happen. How confusing would it be for you to now be told you don’t belong here and there is no way for you to make it legal?
What if I, as a white mother, were to put myself in the position of a black or brown mother with a young adult son? Can I imagine what it would be like to worry every day if I have done a good enough job teaching my son how to stay safe and what to do if he’s pulled over by the police? And, if I am part of one of the many households struggling to make ends meet, how can I balance more than one job while also making sure I can put a meal on the table and find time to partner with my children and their teacher to insure they receive the best education possible and every opportunity to succeed?
If we are able to imagine what it would be like for us to live in situations very different from anything we have ever experienced I believe we are more motivated to stand up against abuse, violence, oppression and injustice that we see happening to other people. When we hear stories of injustices experienced by others we may try to rationalize what we hear and explain how there must be something we don’t know or understand. But when we imagine those same injustices happening to us we are able to see and feel how wrong it is and, I hope, be willing to do something. After all, if we know it’s not right for us why would we believe it was ok for anyone else?