At college, I took a course called Social Problems and Change, and it was by far one of the most beloved courses during my college career. It was not, however, an uplifting experience for my soul; quite the opposite actually, it crushed me in the way that only knowledge can wound. Every Tuesday morning and Friday afternoon I would walk into classroom 5, knowing full well that I was about to sit through 75 minutes of brutally looking out at the world around me. A world full of vast problems like globalization, environmental degradation, wars, famine, slavery and injustice. A world with problems so immense that often I found them hard enough of comprehend, let alone rectify.
It was the weight of this knowledge that almost defeated me. For with it I found a hopeless feeling creeping in. I mean really, who I am in the eye of the beast that is globalization? How can I even begin to bring about the systemic change that I so desperately craved? And yet I knew that I was responsible for the knowledge that I held. As much as I wanted to walk away from that knowledge, back to the comfort and safety found in ignorance, I simply could not. And around every corner knowledge haunted me, calling me to some sort of action. Finally I came to the conclusion that no matter how small and seemingly insignificant my action was to those around me, I still had to act. For to not act was to allow a deep part of my being to die.
This past week I went down to Wilmington, DE to meet with Terry and Ben and interview them for The Ordinary Radicals Documentary. Ben and Terry do not get much more ordinary as people. They are both married, go to church, and hold big business jobs. They were living their suburban lives as usual when knowledge hit them like a bus out of nowhere. Forcing them, as it did me, out into the world to do small, seemingly insignificant things. Things like taking the homeless and hungry out to share a meal with them. It was this small action that birthed a close friendship with many that our society shuns. One of these beautiful friendships is with a guy named Herman, who I also had the chance to meet.
Herman has struggled through his life to do right and get straight. He is a gentle man who doesn’t like too much attention. He is an amazing chess player and has taught me a lot about the joy of life in the few short hours we spent together.
Ben and Terry are raising money for Herman to try and give him the boost he needs to get his life back on track. They are trying to get him an apartment, a mattress, a radio and some fruit. Doing so by asking for a single dollar from folks.
I must admit that at first I was rather skeptical towards their whole movement. I mean really, how is helping one homeless person going to do anything… right? But through talking with Herman, Ben and Terry, I discovered a piece of myself in them. That piece which must act in any small way just to stay alive. And although helping Herman may seem insignificant to some, to Herman the change Ben and Terry and enacting in his life… well, to say the least, it is changing the world for him. Small things, great love… perhpas it really is the answer. Perhaps within those four small words lie the secret to standing up to the powers that be, to rectifying the injustice… in short, maybe that is how we change the world… or more importantly, maybe that is the secret to how we keep the world from changing us…