I have been called a communist. I have been called a socialist. I think communalist or Christian describes me more accurately than either of the other two words. But I won’t balk if anyone calls me a communist or socialist. I embrace these two names because of the things I believe.
Because I believe that people are inherently good, I believe we could easily live together in harmony if people were willing to do a few things differently. In other words, we need to make some cultural lifestyle changes. People are generally out for themselves because our culture forces them to be. Deep down everyone is generous. Some cultures thrive by living in community; ours just happens to be more focused on individualism. However, a few small changes could cause big ripples.
I believe we should listen when other people talk. I had a professor who once said to someone in class, “Could you start over? I forgot to listen.” I think he was being honest about a behavior that many of us suffer from on a daily basis: we don’t listen to each other. Instead of having the decency, though, to admit that we forget to listen, we pretend that we are listening all along. Sometimes we even nod our heads as if we agree with the other person, not knowing what it is we’re agreeing to. If we, as humans, truly listened to each other instead of writing our shopping lists, planning our evenings, or thinking about that joke that someone told us earlier, then the world would be much less chaotic because we would all know what other people said instead of pretending like we do. We might also learn something about other people, which in turn might make us more compassionate.
Maybe this could be partially aided if people would return to using common courtesies in their speech, like saying please and thank you. It wouldn’t hurt if we would take the time to answer the question, “How are you?” with an honest answer instead of giving the answer that everyone expects: “Fine.” One day I want to say to someone, “I am not fine. I am dying inside and my soul hurts so bad.” And I want that to be okay. I want to be able to tell people when I struggle, but I also believe we should rejoice when there is reason for rejoicing. Life is good sometimes, most times if we try hard to see the joys. We should be able to celebrate the good and lament the bad together.
I believe part of this inability to connect to other people stems from the fact that we are too in love with our possessions. Especially as Americans, we love our technology, our cars, our houses, our gadgets, and gizmos. Perhaps if we were required each year to donate our one prized possession to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, or children’s home, we would understand that the things are not where our attachments should lie, but that we should become more deeply invested in each other.
If your child could take his favorite toy, donate it to another child who lives in a homeless shelter, build a relationship with that other child, and see what it feels like to be involved in another persons life, maybe we could teach our children that the world doesn’t belong to them as individuals, but it belongs to them as a society. If you would take your computer (before it completely conks out) and donate it to a battered woman who is trying to get a job to get out of her abusive household, imagine the change in her life. Maybe you even have a great business suit you could include in the package. Something as simple as saving your hotel shampoo, lotion, and soap and giving it to men’s shelter makes a big impact in someone’s life. Have you ever tried to get a job without proper bodily hygiene? Nearly impossible.
This is why I believe in feeding homeless people: we are one bad day from the fifth floor of the VA hospital. Most of us are one bad day from homelessness, too. What happens today on Wall Street could effect you, it could effect me, or it could effect someone we know. How many homeless people are living on the streets because of one bad day? This isn’t to say that some people don’t choose homelessness. Some do. Some people consciously choose to drop out of capitalism, drop out of society, or just fade into the background. I don’t blame them. All the keeping up is hard work. Never walk past another person without making eye contact. You are no better than the teenager with scars up and down his arms, living on the street. We are all interconnected.
Maybe we should all eat out of dumpsters. Then we could look each other in the eyes. Maybe it is a blessing that we throw away too much. No, it is heresy. We could feed a small country with what we put in the garbage can each day. Each day Americans throw away more than most people eat in a week. We should all be more frugal. When I was in high school, my boyfriend and I dumpster dived many times. We foraged–no, gleaned–potato chips from the dumpster behind the Seyfert’s distribution center and sold them at lunch. We used the money to pay for dates, movies, and other things we wanted but didn’t have money for. Looking back, we probably should have just given the chips away and not worried about getting money for them. We didn’t disrupt the capitalist cycle, we just reinvented it.
Maybe I am communist, because I think all people should get paid the same amount of money. The big corporate executive would be nowhere without the people who work in her factories or retail centers, and they would all be no where without the person who cleans up after them all. Where would most people be without coffee farmers, trash collectors, ministers, rabbis, and teachers? Are professional sports and big-name actors or actresses of more worth than their elementary organization sponsors? If we all got paid the same amount for doing what we are good at, then we could go about doing those things without feeling the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, never mind that the Joneses work no harder for their possessions than we do. I suppose if we weren’t obsessed with possessions, we wouldn’t care if we couldn’t keep up with the Joneses, though.
I believe no one should look at you funny if you make change out of the offering plate at church. God doesn’t care if you only have a twenty but can only afford to give up five for the Church. God cares more that you are giving something than nothing. Remember the story of the poor widow’s mite. God will multiply your five dollars and use it to feed and clothe the masses. Haven’t you ever read the story of the loaves and the fishes?
That story, I will add, confirms what I have been writing: life is all about sharing, gleaning, feeding, and giving what you have to others. Call it communism if you must. I will call it being like Christ.