Last night I took my dog Moonshine out for an evening walk. I love the silence of the neighborhood when all of the people are tucked inside and the aroma of home cooked meals are released as incense traveling through the streets. The shadows envelope me in-between street lights. I cherish the alone space I feel between myself and the quiet hours; it gives room for reflection.
As I was walking I noticed a sign posted in a neighbor’s yard. It is vibrant with bright red words on a white background. It is a statement piece declaring activism for environmental defense. Things that I found myself nodding in agreement with. I have always considered it a no-brainer, and have understood it to be my place, my responsibility and my duty to contribute in the protection and stewardship of this earth, as it is our home and created by the God that I worship. Why wouldn’t I care? So naturally, I felt connected with the calling that this yard post was declaring. The sign began with the words: “I STAND AGAINST…”
I STAND AGAINST… and then it listed a number of things.
I continued my walk thinking about the words displayed. I agree! There is so much to stand against. Yet, this question rose up within me: “But what do you STAND FOR?”
What do you stand for?
I have stood against many things. I have no problem defending what I believe to be good and just for both humanity and our created earth. I have been an activist for years on many levels.
I have marched alongside hundreds in the streets of Portland, I have stood with signs in the bitter cold in Fairbanks, Alaska. I have conducted speeches with megaphones. I have gone door to door canvasing for votes. I have spent countless hours in conversation with communities fighting off an industrial plant to-be-built next to a neighborhood. I have attended more rallies than I can count.
I suppose it all started when I was young. I stood for the insects and the birds. I was their advocate; protesting the poisons used to kill the sugar ant nest outside of our home or the bees nests or whatever else needed saving. I snuck food to the colonies from table scraps to help them survive the terrors of pest control.
I mothered many baby birds fallen from their nests. And oh have I had words with God, tearful angry words asking, “Why didn’t you let that baby bird live!?!” – Mind you, I also had a painful prayer session expressing to God my frustration that he didn’t make my cabbage patch dolls hair curly after I braided it. I prayed that he would and he just didn’t do it. You can only imagine how disappointed I was when I unraveled my dolls braids to see that it remained straight! God and I, we have a pretty transparent relationship.
Then, there was my mom, taking us to pro-life meetings and giving us little signs to hold. We stood next to her, my two younger sisters and I, huddled together for hours holding signs in front of courthouses… watching my mom work persistently for what she believed in.
I remember my mom rallying the neighborhood for speed bumps. She met a man that partnered with her activism and he marched down our streets banging his drums as a declaration proclaiming, “safer streets for our children!” She petitioned and wrote letters and went to meetings – she got those speed bumps and our street was safer for it.
So yes, I have been taught and raised to defend what I believe to be true and noble and good and just.
But sometimes standing against things can hurt people.
Sometimes taking the position to stand against can be lived out as a friction word with an exclusive posture.
A word that activates one sided debates and head on collisions.
Standing against can sometimes result in the very polarizing pain that I find myself fighting to relinquish.
Consider then the words: TO STAND FOR…
These words create a sense of FORWARD movement. A rising and activation of support. An opportunity for inclusivity and hands held. Voices raised in harmony. Banners lifted high.
To stand for something is being an agent of change whilst willing my ears to listen in order to hear my brothers and my sisters.
To Stand FOR equals FORWARD.
Forward to Love
Forward to kindness
Forward to peace
Forward to equality
Forward in integrity
Forward in value
Forward in reconciliation
A Forward march.
Can you feel it? I feel it!
Yes, I am an activist. I stand against acts of injustice. I always will.
But to consider the position of STANDING FOR the people behind those things that I stand against. It might look a little more like loving thy enemy. Or it might look a bit more like doing good to those who hurt me.
It might look like the kind of revolutionary love that steps outside of my comfort zone to help my neighbors both locally and globally, in ways that I have never been stretched before.
I am quick to stand for the labeled “under dog” … but would I be as quick to stand for the labeled privileged. Do I believe that they deserve it? Do I believe that I deserve it? Do I really value everyone equally? Do I value myself equally?
My answer would be yes yes yes! But in the act of standing against I am afraid that sometimes my actions might say no. I am afraid that in my zeal to stand against, I have in the past hurt some friends along the way. In my journey to be more loving, more understanding and more compassionate, I have also judged and misunderstood and reacted to things in ways that excluded what I did not understand or rather WHO I did not understand.
I love activism. I love the movement and progress of change for good things! We the people throughout history have risen up together in great force to bring forth good change. My desire is to be an agent of change through the kind of activism that is of love.
So I made a list of what it is that I stand for. A vision statement so to speak, worked out by my desire to stand forwards and to rise up with a yes!
In that list I wrote down a whole bunch of really pretty words and inspiring statements.
Summed up, though, it all comes down to this:
“I stand for you and I stand for me. I stand for the Way of the Peacemaker”
With that vision I can hold those words as a life compass with chosen hope to align my feet on the path in the direction I should go. This is my “in the works”, always growing, always changing, desire. We are a big messy beautiful work in progress.
Finally, sisters and brothers, I stand for whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—I BOLDLY STAND FOR such things.
– Jenny Rose Foster