Proximity is Everything (also: This Is the Most Important Blog Post I’ve Written Lately)

Location. Location. Location.  It’s the motto of realtors everywhere because people generally want to be close to what makes life better/easier:

  • Close to work
  • Close to a Target
  • Close to family
  • Close to the beach
  • Close to good schools

Last night, I had the privilege of hearing National Treasure Bryan Stevenson speak in Charlotte. My first thought upon seeing him in person was that I thought he would look much older and weathered, especially considering what he has seen in this life.  (Read Just Mercy.)

He started by saying that we could talk about issues of injustice all night.  But he wanted to talk – instead – about solutions.  Talking about injustice weathers us.  Talking about solutions gives us hope.

I wrote a post last year that asked “Who is the poorest person you know?”  Many of us have narratives in our heads about “poor people” just as we have narratives in our heads about Black men in prison, unmarried pregnant women, immigrants from Central America, people addicted to drugs, Trans people, etc. etc. etc.

We read and hear news stories about “them” and we believe we know who they are.  Actually we have no idea who they are.

We only learn the true stories about people when we are close to those people.  Proximity is everything.

Sadly, many of us want to be “successful” in order to remove ourselves from the poor (i.e. “bad neighborhoods.”) In fact, we want to move far away from anybody who makes us uncomfortable.  But this is the opposite of what Jesus did.

This.  Is.  The.  Opposite.  Of.  What.  Jesus.  Did.

I’m not say that we need to move out of our comfortable homes or refuse to stay in nice hotels on vacation.  What I’m saying is that each of us needs to make choices to become more proximate to the very people whose lives we fear or condemn.

  • If we are angry about immigrants coming into our country from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador we have a holy and civic duty to meet people in this very demographic.
  • If we are adamantly “pro-life” to the point of equating a six week old fetus with a six month old infant, we have an obligation to get to know some people who are pregnant as a result of rape, incest, or in brutally difficult circumstances.
  • If we fear young Black and Brown men in hoodies, God is calling us to get to know such men and hear their stories.

I’m not talking about one and done conversations here.  I’m talking about relationships.  If all our relationships are with people who look, speak, and live like we do then we have missed the point of Jesus.

This is the most important thing I can say this morning – except to quote my father who, upon hearing me complain about people, always said, “Just love ’em.”

We can’t love people we aren’t willing to know and be in proximity with.

Image of Bryan Stevenson speaking on May 30, 2019 in Charlotte, NC


One response to “Proximity is Everything (also: This Is the Most Important Blog Post I’ve Written Lately)

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