[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.