Some weeks, working for AFSC can break open your heart. Last week with the crisis in Gaza, and having staff and young people with whom we work directly affected, it felt close to home. The images of casualties on both sides of the conflict—injured children who had lost their parents, people searching the rubble for their loved ones—made the violence feel as though it was next door.
It felt critical to offer one more voice to stop the immediate bombings and rocket launches and address the underlying issues, so I worked urgently with staff to post stories and statements to raise awareness of the impact of the conflict. The recent violence is a symptom of much longer-term issues. A crisis like this brings home how important it is to do the long-haul work of addressing underlying issues of injustice.I know a storyteller who is a Vietnam War veteran. He’s a fairly committed pacifist now and performs a one man show about his experience in the war. He says that the dirty little secret about war is that many soldiers feel more alive in combat than they have before or than they do after. When he described his feeling of being totally alive and alert on the front lines, it reminded me of teaching in an inner-city school.
The commonalities seemed to me to be working in a difficult situation with high stakes, understanding that huge change can happen in a moment, and that lives are at risk. What if feeling awake and alive didn’t require war and violence, but rather the excitement of working on behalf of another’s well-being? I’ve seen such wakefulness and joy among AFSC staff, whether working with beginning farmers or accompanying victims and perpetrators as they find a way to heal.
Living in such an awakened state, it seems, requires vulnerability and courage. It requires connecting your fate to another’s, pushing out beyond where comfort lies, and risking faith. But it’s not the daring of disconnection that war demands; it’s the courage that only love can engender.
Some weeks working for AFSC can break open your heart. And that makes coming to work each day risky and joyful. Please join us in that work through the meeting/church liaison program or by working for peace and justice in your own community.
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