Last month my service site, Lakeview Pantry, sent me to the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. Although I was sorry to leave my delightful 11 community members for a few days, it was rather exciting to go to workshops, hear about innovative anti-hunger programs, and be inspired to work harder. The whole conference was in preparation for the last day, which was spent lobbying on Capitol Hill. We met with State Representatives and their Staff to encourage them to support policies that, among other things, ensure food stamps and provide commodities for food pantries. It was also an opportunity to advocate for my clients and to share their stories with those who, although genuinely support anti-hunger policies, are removed from frequent encounters with the faces of hunger.
Upon returning to Chicago, I realized that while lobbying in this manner is vital and an intrinsic part of American government, maybe this isn't the only kind of advocacy. It left me wondering about advocating within one’s own community, whether it is my Amate community, the larger community, or my place of work. It made me question whether I actually advocate for my clients in my everyday life. I realized that if I am not advocating for my clients every day and bringing awareness to the injustices they face, then how I can honestly advocate for my clients on a state and federal level?
At Amate House, we are dedicated to putting love into action. As volunteers living in an intentional community, we constantly strive to act intentionally, so that those actions reflect our beliefs. We want to, as St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” I think, however, that I sometimes forget that it is necessary to use words, as they can be insufficient and limited. Since our actions are preceded by thought, isn't there a time, sometimes, to share those thoughts, to voice those thoughts, and to dissect those thoughts? Because isn't that where real social change occurs? Within our own hearts and our own communities? Dorothy Day reminds us that, “The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart. A revolution, which must start with each one of us.” I loved and appreciated the opportunity to lobby for my clients and still see lobbying as valuable. It is in community, however, that we plant the seeds of societal change with both our hearts and mouths. I am so grateful for this year and the chance to live in a community that values discussion and challenges each other to continually turn our hearts toward the reality of Love. After all, there’s not much more that one could want than that.
** While in Washington, Elizabeth did not represent Amate House, Catholic Volunteer Network, or AmeriCorps in any official capacity. Her actions and advocacy do not necessarily represent the views or actions of Amate House, Catholic Volunteer Network or AmeriCorps.