During my internship at Wilshire learning about inequality in almost all our systems through various webinars and Zoom meetings, there was one common theme I picked up on in all the meetings: Loneliness.
Example—Addressing affordable housing: everyone owning single-family homes was not the vision when our country was being formed as the United States. The founders would have had no concept of that even being possible or desirable. That message was spread in the 18th-century as some kind of spiritual blessing. But we are finding out living this way is increasing our loneliness and lowering our life expectancy. Few people truly know their neighbors, or spend any time with them in a meaningful way. It is also an obstacle in creating affordable housing: “Not in my neighborhood!,” the people scream.
This is just one example of many where I found loneliness at the core of the problem. They are linking the desire for authoritarianism with loneliness too.
When life as I knew it was over the first time, it was the beginning of me seeing that people were not as real as I thought. What we call friendship was actually not based on reciprocity; instead, it was on what can you do for me. If I treat you like shit, especially when you are telling me something I do not want to hear, well, that is just how people in leadership get treated. Get thicker skin was their message back to me. This was a person I called a friend, and I was trying to help keep them and their kids safe. Also, I was not even in official leadership. I literally was there as a friend.
I was not okay with that treatment. If that is how I am going to be treated working with people when trying to help them, then count me out. But God would not leave me alone. I heard Her say to be the leader the people need, and do not take their shit either. Leadership as friendship is what I am going to learn as journey from here.
That was soccer, but it opened my eyes to church and our politics too. All of this was happening during the 2016 election, and I was seeing this was not unique to me; it was everywhere. Truly an eye-opening moment where I felt I was living in another world. The meaning of “I have no place to lay my head” never felt so clear to me.
John 15:15 became the verse that stuck out the most to me in seminary, and it came to me at the end of my seminary career. Jesus is no longer calling his disciples servants, but friends. Servant implies they do not know their Source’s business; Jesus revealed all he had heard/learned from the Source to them. This signifies deep trust to me.
I had not been satisfied with solutions we were coming up with in class to set boundaries in our future communities to keep us from liability, because in these solutions, deep beneath the surface, was mistrust. Talking with my spiritual advisor recently, she was picking up on the theme of trust in our conversation.
I am not promoting trust people no matter what. Actually, quite the opposite. I am saying we can trust our friends. But in order to do that, we need to know what a friend is. Then we can come up with boundaries that are appropriate and still promote and foster trust.
I am reading “Radical Friendship” by Kate Johnson. A book that came to me just recently. It is everything I had hoped for and more so far. She is saying our systems are designed to keep us from connection. She is advocating for bonds so strong that systems of oppression can’t break them. A friendship so powerful it gathers enough power to transform ourselves and the world. And friendship, even with ourselves, must create a safe space to fail! You keep working and trying again.
I also love how she defines allyship vs friendship. I am including a quote meme for that one because it is so profound.
We can find our people in this unjust world, friends. And it will make a difference. Hope where there was hopelessness. Love where there was hate.