By Rev. Renee Roederer, photo by Steve Pavey
In these days we’re living, do you ever feel overwhelmed by the news cycle?
Yes, me too.
Because behind the news cycle, there are real, human stories of suffering. And so often, we feel helpless to prevent that suffering and powerless to change it.
It’s incredibly understandable to fall into those feelings. In such times, we need the solidarity of one another – that is,
. . . the sense that we are in each other’s view, that we encounter each other’s pain with empathy,
. . . the sense that we have each other’s commitment, that we are in each other’s corner for the long haul,
. . . the sense that we have each other’s action, that we covenant to act on behalf of one another, especially and most readily for the vulnerable.
Christian scripture encourages us to bear each other’s burdens. Lately, within that calling, I find myself encouraging people to shift each other’s burdens.
We can easily become incapacitated once we realize we cannot instantly fix the systems that are causing burdens. But our empathy, and most importantly, our committed action can change these systems and these burdens. Do not underestimate what these can do.
When we see pain for what it is, we add our validation, and it shifts burdens.
When we add our resources of money, time, or skills, it shifts burdens.
When we use our voices to name wrongs for what they are, it shifts burdens.
When we use our minds to create solutions, it shifts burdens.
When we put our bodies in places that disrupt harm, it shifts burdens.
When we honor the humanity of people who are being dehumanized, it shifts burdens.
When we take direct action and demand justice for the oppressed and vulnerable, it shifts burdens.
If we want to change the large-scale systems that cause harm, we have to disrupt and dismantle them. But alongside that commitment, we have to live and model our lives with a different rhythm – with different commitments and ways of relating to one another.
We practice solidarity.
And within that way of living, we share and lighten the loads that people are carrying. We assign energy and responsibility to where they really belong.
We shift each other’s burdens.
Renee Roederer is the founding organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones, a community for people who are “spiritually curious but institutionally suspicious.” This community in Southeast Michigan includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and people who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression.