Once again I am sitting in The Beanery, a coffee shop about two steps from my apartment, with my roommate and friend Julia, and once again we are discussing what we identify as the 'world's problems'. Using ideas and theories we've learned in sociology, english, art theory and various other classes, we're forming and sharing opinions together in between our homework assignments. Unfortunately, once again, it has begun to feel as though these big issues that mostly deal with systemic inequality and oppression are in fact too big for us. We are caught up in problems that have no right, absolute or easy solutions which for us has become a place of frustrating inaction.
In many ways, these 'world problems' truly are too big for us. However, instead of letting myself feel helpless, I've been thinking about moments of redemption and small-scale change that inspire me to action.
First, the daycare I volunteer with once a week--a daycare intended to reunite children with their families by providing parenting classes and resources for parents whose children have either been placed in foster care or are being supervised by a social worker. While the parents attend classes, I care for their children. At first, working in this environment with children who have experienced trauma was sad and at times uncomfortable. It isn't easy to see the impact of abuse or neglect in children. However, very soon I learned to trust the hope that was being offered and created. Here is a place actively making peace from what was brokenness, and whether the children are joyfully talking about how blue food colouring spreads in water or their parents are learning about healthy snack options, the day-by-day small steps taken here have the potential for huge results.
Secondly, this past weekend I learned about a project called Beauty Night which offers manicures, facials, hair-cuts and massages to women from the Downtown Eastside. While this project initially could be seen as unessential, for many of these women who live in a world dominated by sexual violence, this is an opportunity for healthy, healing touch. This is an opportunity for dignity. And again, this is an opportunity for small, momentary, relief that offers hope of some kind of larger restoration.
A third example is that of Hope Community Centre, a school and orphanage for street children in North Kinangop, Kenya. I worked as a nanny there in 2011 and as I enjoyed forming relationships with the babies, kids, and teenagers, I again got to see clear examples of active peace-making and reconciliation. I wrote this during my time there.
'I know, I know, I know the world sucks a lot and there is way too much apathy and cruelty and hate and injustice. And I know that even as I say that, I have no concept of just how cruel, hateful and unjust the world is because I am very often an apathetic middle-class mzungu that lives far away and drinks green tea frappucinos from Starbucks. And I know that there are far too many kids here in Kenya not lucky enough to live at Hope Community Centre. But I don't think that it's with naivety that I believe in these simple, small redemptive projects.'
And so, as I once again contemplate 'world problems' with Julia and begin to feel paralyzingly small, I have to remind myself to focus on what I interpret as God moving in the world--the powerful forces of reconciliation and redemption that sometimes exist in big, but perhaps more often small, moments.