Guest post: Solidarity and St. John’s Kitchen

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Today’s piece comes from two folks who volunteer at St. John’s Kitchen, on the theme of solidarity. Every Wednesday morning for the last six years, Ann and Gary help serve meals and clean at SJK. The Kitchen serves about 280 people each day, and Ann and Gary form a part of the team that makes SJK’s daily meal possible. Their thoughts on solidarity, expressed so eloquently below, motivate their work at SJK; and, as they make clear, solidarity is more than an abstract theme or principle to value, but a statement about ourselves and communities: we are all implicated in suffering and injustice.

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When we think of the word Solidarity there are a number of connections, many of which have to do with some kind of collective action, like unions or political groups.  But if we go back even further, and broaden out the concept, it really means being connected to and caring about the people around us.  Everyone needs this kind of support; both to give as well as receive.  Both as individuals and as members of a sane society.

Numerous studies demonstrate the role that close relationships play in maintaining a satisfying life.  People seem to be more physically and emotionally resilient, and if they do become ill, the prospects of recovery are greatly enhanced if they are part of a cohesive network.

Throughout history, the times of the most destructive societal breakdowns occurred when some folks were segregated out, or hierarchies were established that trapped  some members into positions of subservience or lower esteem.  The effects were damaging for the ruling parties as well, leading to mistrust and paranoia, and the certain knowledge of the anger and resentment aimed at them.  In spite of indications to the contrary, nobody won.

Today, we have such a hierarchy, based on serious differences of wealth and privilege.  Some attitudes are encouraged that blame people for their difficulties, and attribute what amounts to adulation to those who manage to secure a greater share.  And as always there is fear and isolation on both sides.  The poorer ones spend all of their time and energy just surviving, and the wealthy accumulate more property and possessions to fill the void of their self imposed isolation.   Nobody is happy.

Society can be compared to a piece of cloth that has tightly woven strands of thread, some so finely integrated that it is hard to see where one thread ends and another starts.  But if one thread breaks, all of the surrounding cloth is in danger of damage and disintegration.  If one part of society is weakened, everyone is affected, whether we see it immediately or not.

We can consciously make an effort to see one another without judgement, to appreciate each of our gifts and achievements, and to challenge our own biases and negative judgements.  We can try to support efforts to create a more just society.  But most of all, we can all be strong parts of that piece of cloth and stand together in equality and harmony.  Our happiness depends on it.

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One Response to “Guest post: Solidarity and St. John’s Kitchen”

  1. Mo’ KD, Mo’ Problems | Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] power imbalances do not disappear easily or quickly, but as communities work together in solidarity, they may be able to avoid some of the problems I’ve identified. This is a huge idea, and […]

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