I had the honor and joy of receiving an intern position within the Religious Life Community this semester. I am officially the Intern of Justice and Service and when I talk to people about it, there comes a point in that conversation where they ask me, “but what does that mean?”. And you know what? That’s a really good question.
I feel like we hear the words “justice” and “service” used and we don’t really take the time to understand what they mean or at least how they can relate to us. For a really long time, whenever anyone would use the word “justice”, courtrooms would spring to my mind; judges walking powerfully in their robes, lawyers jumping to their feet and making objections, normal law and order stuff. It took a long time for me to realize that justice is something that everyone can work towards. However, I think we have to rework our definition of the word justice and also eat a pretty big piece of humble pie. If we are honest with one another, we probably aren’t leading very just lives; myself included.
I will be honest, I really like shopping. I like clothes, I like jewelry, I really like Vera Bradley and I indulge quite often in these things. But is that just? I usually don’t think about the work that went into the products I’m buying. Were they made to the disadvantage of someone else? Were they made in sweatshops or under other inhumane conditions? I don’t know. Could I find out? Probably. But I’ll be honest with you again, I probably won’t. Instead of shopping, I could be spending these funds on other worthwhile causes or charities. But will I? Maybe. Some of it. And that’s ok. Does this make me an unjust person? Probably to some it does. But in other aspects of my life I like to think that I am a just person.
I try very hard to speak out when I see things happening around me that I feel are unjust. Or when talking won’t get the job done, I try to work it out. I went on the Call of Service trip to Denver, Colorado this past May Term and we worked primarily with the homeless population there. Now that was a glaring glimpse into an injustice that is plaguing our country. Homelessness is a problem where we can’t just bring to peoples’ attention in order to fix it. People already know that homelessness exists and that it is an issue; we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s such an overwhelming problem that I honestly was at a loss for what I could do. What could I do? I’m just a college student from a small town. What skills do I have that can help fix this problem? While I may not be able to “fix” the problem; I can pick up a ladle, sort donations, and lend a listening ear. We served in soup kitchens and in a day center for the homeless where they can receive necessary services. Did our work help to end homelessness in Denver? Of course not, but it did help to alleviate some of the burdens of these programs while others are out advocating for these incredibly deserving people.
To me, there are two sides to justice: on one hand you have the people who are on the ground serving those who are at the receiving end of the injustice and on the other hand you have those who are advocating on behalf of the downtrodden to the people with the power to change the things within the system that creates the injustice. We cannot have one without the other if we are looking to make change; both are vitally important.
Which brings me to the other part of my job title: “service”. It’s something that I feel goes hand in hand with justice and is the first part of my personal justice definition. In order to create justice, we have to serve. This happens in all kinds of ways; big and small. To me, service can be as simple as holding a door open for someone or even giving someone a smile. Anything we can do to reach out to our fellow human beings in a positive manner, I believe is service. While these small gestures of kindness are important to do daily, we also have a responsibility to team up and take part in larger, more organized services opportunities. Everyone has a role to play in making our world both at Simpson but also on a larger scale a more just and safe place to share. I am really excited to work towards making even the smallest of impacts on these issues this semester and I hope you will join me.
Intern of Justice and Service