We’re better together. We can see how that pans out in our community when we pick up the neighbor’s trash cans that blow into the street, when we bring meals to new parents, and when we provide comfort to members who are sick.
But better together doesn’t just mean being a better neighbor. It also means pushing each other to stand up for the least of these. It means starting meaningful discussions at local coffee shops. It means going to see speakers who talk about hard subjects, like human trafficking. It means standing with strangers as well as friends to make a difference.
At The Global Leadership Summit in August, one of the speakers said, “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not doing it right.” That’s something that’s stayed with me. It’s an encouragement to step out of your comfort zone because if you stay within the familiar, you won’t create anything new. You won’t right any wrongs, you won’t solve any injustices. So we have to help each other by encouraging each other out of our comfort zones so we can create change. That’s how we can be better together.
Before you get nervous, there are some easy ways to start stepping out of your comfort zone. First, there’s been a ton of research showing that the way we consume news today tends to confirm whatever bias we have, rather than challenging our bias. So an easy step you can take to widen your comfort zone is to watch a different newscast a few nights a week or read a book every couple of months from an author whose ideas you tend to disagree with.
If that sounds too simple to be effective, I promise it isn’t. What you’ll be doing is listening to stories different from your own that will open your eyes to perspectives that were never alive for you before.
As an example, I’d been reading about the civil war in Syria for months, but didn’t really understand what was going on. The news sources I’d been reading recounted bombings and reported numbers of refugees, but they didn’t put me in the mindset of someone in the middle of the conflict.
Then, I came across a Facebook post by someone who knew a lot more about the situation. The post was a narrative that put the reader in the place of a Syrian refugee. As I read, I became a young professional living in Syria who, because of death all around me, lived in fear of my family being killed. The post put me, my spouse, my toddler, and my infant daughter on a boat, trying to escape imminent death. Everyone on the boat was instructed to be absolutely silent, and when the baby started crying, the smuggler grabbed her and tossed her into the water.
I cried at my computer, and since then I’ve told the story from that Facebook post again and again, changing minds and hearts on the refugee crisis.
Back in February, Ascent 121 came to my church to talk about their work with rehabilitating victims of human trafficking, which happens everywhere, even in Hamilton County. There was a retired federal agent in the audience for the presentation who had worked on child sex exploitation cases, and he said that the exploiters know our kids better than we do, and that’s how kids get dragged in. Just think about that. If we can get out of our comfort zones with our kids, and get them to confide in us, how many kids could we keep from becoming victims?
By sharing our stories, and by listening to the stories of others, that’s how we can be better together.