When UUs talk of changing the world, we tend to think of achieving this through politics, policy and protests. Personally, my work is similarly focused: I have logged far too many trips to Washington DC over the last few years than I care to recount. But I have come to realize over the years that the most immediate and impactful improvements to the world come not from our actions in distant centers of power but the result of what we say and do in the world within our view.
A person with 20/20 vision (or have, like me, had their eyeballs attacked by corrective laser surgery)
can see clearly a distance of about 20 feet. If a person does a 3600 turn, they can view a little over 1,000 square feet. No matter where you are or what you are doing, that little patch of 1,000 square feet is the world in which you have the greatest amount of influence and, as an ethical being, the most responsibility to act morally.
As a nerdy introvert with defective facial recognition software in my brain, I am not comfortable with the idea that I have a moral duty to interact with the world within my view. In fact, I would still be living in blissful ignorance of that world if it had not been for the two wonderful women that have been part of my life. Through them I have learned that the world within my view should be seen as my personal ministry, and everyone within my view is an incarnation of the holy.
So I have adapted my ministry to fit my inherent nature. Because of my defective software, I tend to focus on people in my ministry that have nametags, like waiters, waitresses, hotel staff and bank tellers and inanimate objects like grocery carts. Fortunately for me, people that wear nametags and grocery carts are some of the most ignored and mistreated parts of the world within my view.
So a lot of my ministry involves starting up conversations with name tag adorned strangers: for instance, I acknowledge every left-handed name-tag wearing person I encounter: as a fellow leftie -- this creates an automatic bond. Also, as part of my ministry, I am drawn to I return lost grocery carts to the cart rack, or even take them back inside the store. After all, this is my world and carts should be restored to their rightful place.
Others with this strange view of ministry respond in different ways. My son Jesse, also an introvert, carries packets of new socks to hand out to the homeless he encounters in Salt Lake City. Pam always has extra dollar bills to give panhandlers, convinced that they are Jesus. And Janet’s father used to tidy up the woods he walked through on a daily basis.
There is a church not far from here that has a sign at the exit of their parking lot that everyone leaving sees. It simply says, “You are now entering the mission field.” As we continue to work to make the world more just and fair, it is worth considering leaving the world with our view better than we first encountered it.