10 field trips worth taking.

blessed are the merciful

[dropcap]s[/dropcap]everal years ago i wrote a post for an online magazine called “a field trip everyone should take” centered on some of my experiences at social services agencies.  it’s just so easy to say things like “well, those people just need to get a job….” or “they are lazy” or quickly end people to get services at some of these agencies and have no idea how truly complicated it is to even make it past the first form that needs to be filled out.  my premise was that all of us should take a field trip there–to listen, to learn, to pray, to gain insight that we can’t get when we are speaking about these things from the comforts of our living room.

this week, when i was just so beyond annoyed & grieved about the truly ignorant and ugly feedback to the america the beautiful superbowl video, the thought was renewed in a different way. i started thinking of various”field trips” i wish more of us would take to open up perspectives, worldviews, hearts, and practices so that we could see some of these things through Jesus’ eyes instead of what we hear in the media or what we have been taught by churches, families, and our own limited life experiences.

so here they are, 10 field trips worth taking to expand our hearts & minds & practices in new ways:

1. a nursery in a hospital – to be reminded of the gift of each wonderful, beautiful, amazing, awesome, incredible, unique, powerful, valuable, and tender one of God’s creations.  born into this world with songs to sing. we all come into the world the same and we all share such an important thing in common–no matter how rich or poor or the color of our skin or the history of our families or geography or beliefs:  God’s image deeply imbedded in us. it looks so different but it’s the same.  not one better or worse, less than or more than, more valuable or less worthy.  each unique, precious, and deserving of being loved and loving. 

2. county or state social services –  it’s dignity stripping, it’s confusing, and it’s often the only little smidge of relief people can get to keep from completely sinking.  whenever i am there, my #1 thought is how we can make advocates, not buildings.

3. a hospice – so many things we think are important become less when we realize the fragility and realities of life and what it means to be at the end of one.

4. under the bridge -(or anywhere that people without houses live and hang out).  if you live in a cold climate, go in the winter.  it’s so easy to say “well, there are options for them & they refuse to take it” so let’s go to #4 after that.

5. a mental health facility – we must not distance ourselves from the ravages of mental illness & the dignity that gets stripped from men & women made in the image of God as they fight the battle to stay alive & find relief.

6. a 12 step meeting – so much to be gleaned from the experience, strength, and hope here.  but the best way to start is to consider “what can i learn from this about myself” not “oh, i’m so glad i’m not like those people.”

7. a local non-faith based domestic violence shelter – there’s something to be learned from people who aren’t overtly associated with faith who are doing this kind of work on behalf of dignity and hope for abused women.  and oh, these brave women who are strong enough to leave have stories to tell that we need to hear.

8,. a service from another faith – this could be one of the hardest or easiest for some, but i am tossing it out there because i think it’s so important and powerful to respect and honor the wide variety of ways people experience God.

9. a second grade classroom in the inner city – these little ones are our future.  this post about the incredible influence and awesomeness of teachers was so beautiful.

10. a halfway house for people exiting jail – the reason i listed this one is one of the worst parts about our penal system is that once people go to jail, the chances of breaking the cycle are slim.  the stigmas attached, the lack of opportunity for jobs and stable housing are incredible obstacles to hope & change.

10.5 . a nursery in a hospital – yep, let’s go there again, and again, and again so that we can be reminded of the gift of each wonderful, beautiful, amazing, awesome, incredible, unique, powerful, valuable, tender one of God’s creations. born into this world with songs to sing. not one better or worse, less than or more than, more valuable or less worthy.  each unique, precious, and deserving of being loved and having an opportunity to love others. 

i know there are so many others, and i would love to hear what you’d add, but these are the 10 off the top of my head today.

there’s a lot to learn when we can feel, taste, touch, smell, and see in new ways. 

that’s why schools take kids on field trips. 

Jesus took his disciples on a lot of them, too.

yeah, mercy always comes through experience.

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

5 Comments

  • I love your list! One that I would add is a nursing home/dementia care facility. Many are understaffed and waiting lists-long to get into. As those elderly who are more high-maintenance with medical needs, handicaps, emotional disorders and such require a lot more staff attention, those who can still get around a bit on their own are mostly left to themselves. Some make friends easily. Others are lonely and isolate themselves. Volunteer programs, like crafts and such only touch on a small percentage of residents. When a volunteer musician plays, many will come out of hiding, just to taste or experience of a time long gone, beyond memory’s reach. Music seems to reach deep places…

    My husband and I once, during a visit to such a place, danced a waltz in front of mesmerized senior onlookers who seemed to travel off into a somewhat recognizable distant past, a hint of sparkle in their eyes. It was beautiful. We gave them the gift of what seemed a quantum leap into their past–something that doesn’t really come so naturally to a population that has a difficult time remembering much of anything. They gave us the gift of community in the midst of their pain, suffering, anger, fear, frustrations, and loneliness. They reminded us to never stop looking towards the many nooks and crannies in the world where people are simply forgotten, and that oftentimes all it takes to restore hope and joy to a good many, if even for a moment, is the treasured act of being remembered and loved.

    Reply
    • Agreed. While on an interim ministry on Maui many years ago, I made a visit to the nursing home where a number of our elderly members resided. We took our 1 year old son with us. We had such a great time greeting and singing and having fun with these precious folks. When I was in high school I volunteered with the Red Cross in a long-term care facility. To each elderly person, I learned to respond to the name of their child who does not visit them. How heartbreaking is that? There was even a woman who had been institutionalized her entire life. When she was fed her means, they had to use a heavy duty metal spoon, because she would break anything plastic. Over time, there were three people who somehow learned my schedule and they would not eat for anyone else on my days. So I learned to go right to the nursing staff when I arrived so we could schedule their meals. This is so important…40 years later, I remember those days like yesterday.

      Reply
    • i am so grateful for this contribution, and it absolutely, positively, without a doubt should be on this list and i appreciate you adding it to keep it in front of us!

      Reply
  • Excellent idea. I’d also like to add a city council meeting. I live in Canada so am not sure how things work in the US, but these are meetings that happen regularly to discuss proposals and projects and receive public input. I often get SO frustrated with the political system and the continual cuts of funding and services that seems to be happening to our most vulnerable groups, so I need to go where these decisions are being discussed and (a) realize the council are people too and I can’t expect them to be superhuman, (b) there are a lot of competing projects I need to see who else is being advocated for and why, to gain some perspective, and (c) advocate to these people about the issues I believe are pertinent (and maybe even invite them on a field trip!! haha). They can’t know about the problems if no one is discussing it with them and we can’t judge them for the decisions they make if we don’t know what’s going on behind those decisions.

    Reply

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