Wednesday, April 05, 2017

ABC Day 5--You Talk I Listen, Post 1

Last fall I wrote about race, heedless and headstrong person that I am. I wrote that I get so tired of the White People Talking syndrome, where it’s all white people defining the issues, choosing the terms, hosting the seminars, creating the memes, and fanning the outrage on behalf of minorities, particularly black people.

There was a very large response to this.

As a result, I had a great idea, or it certainly seemed like one at the time. I wrote: Why not practice what I preach, and use my blog as a platform for a few ethnic-minority guests to answer some questions and say what they don't usually have a chance to say?

I'd name the series something like You Talk, I Listen.

Then came the election, and I was staying away from the Internet just to maintain my sanctification. Then it was Christmas, and then I was spending two or three hours a day finalizing my talks for INSPIRE, and suddenly four months had passed.

I was doing some work behind the scenes, though. And things didn’t go as I had planned. So I reached some conclusions, which I will enlarge upon, eventually.

But first, let’s talk about Causes.

A cause, says Aunt Google, is “a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.”

Back when I was a young married college student with a bad case of Ella Enchanted syndrome, where I was under a spell that made me robotically do whatever I was told, always, I met two young Romanian men on campus at Chemeketa Community College.

Now maybe this is a stereotype I need to renounce and repent of, but I think Eastern Europeans win all the prizes for being passionate about their cause. These young men were Christians, so we connected on that point, and they had come out of Communism, which increased the intensity of their belief. And they were involved with Youth With a Mission, known as YWAM, [pronounced Wy-Wam] with a completely rabid obsession.

So they would stop me on that lovely quad at Chemeketa, and smile joyfully and talk about the goodness of God and the joy of serving Him, and then they would crank up the engines and tell me about the amazing things happening at their YWAM meetings!  The speakers! The miracles! The prayer! The sinners coming to Jesus! The encouragement! Oh, I just HAVE TO COME TO THEIR NEXT MEETING!!!

I didn’t want to go.  We lived a good distance away, our evenings were precious, and we were busy with our own church and its activities. But I couldn’t resist those mesmerizing Romanians leaning toward me and waving their arms in their European pullover sweaters, and so, because I felt guilty and unspiritual and under a spell, I said we would come.

I went home and told Paul.

He said, “What did you say?! Y-What? Who are these people?! Where did you say they meet—the other side of Salem?? Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Uh, no.”

“So why--?”

“Well...they were just so excited about it, and I felt bad saying no...”

“We have plenty to do without driving 45 minutes to a YWAM meeting!”

“But I kind of said we would…”

“There is no reason we need to go to that meeting.”

And that was that. I know I was kind of Ella Enchanted toward Paul at that stage as well, but it was still a relief to be free from the obligation to attend the meeting.

Of course, it was me and not he who met the Romanians on the quad the next day and tried to explain. But I survived, and I learned something.

Just because someone else is passionate about a Cause and thinks you ought to be also, and communicates this in spiritual-sounding words with great waving of hands and showers of guilt—that doesn’t mean that that is your Cause to take on.

Because we all have our own Causes and callings, and the work of God’s Kingdom on Earth will get done if we all pursue what we are called to do, and it will not get done if we neglect our own calling to half-heartedly help with another’s because we feel guilty and pressured.

God made us so that we can all do something, but none of us can do everything.

He made us with different interests and resources, so we are better suited for specific callings, and not others.

Here are just a few to choose from:
Evangelism and missions
Feeding the hungry
Syrian refugees
Food independence
The homeless
Prison reform
India’s caste system
Ritalin overuse
Volunteering at thrift stores
Human trafficking
Habitat for Humanity

No doubt you know people out to change the world in one or more of those arenas.

Our level of commitment can range from mild interest to deeper interest to financial support to sacrificial passion.

You can encourage someone else in what they’re doing without being obligated to join them heart and soul. All you need to do is bless them in their endeavors and continue with your own.

I could give Edith Chastain my leftover fabric for her weighted blanket project without any expectation that I would start spending 25 hours a week sewing them myself, as she does, tempting as that might be.

Sometimes when we have been enlightened on a subject, we want everyone else to be just as enlightened as we are, and we forget that they might not be called to the same level of passion and commitment as we are.  Maybe, polite support from a distance is all they are called to.

Also, sometimes a certain cause is a fad, and everyone is leaping on this wagon and riding along together with music playing, and you feel left out and a bit callous and cold if you simply wave as they go by.

Some examples of today’s “everyone on the wagon” causes are health [from Plexus to vaccines], race issues, rights for all kinds of groups, and environmentalism.

Meanwhile, other important causes go virtually unnoticed.

If you post about the terrible war in Yemen, the injustice of a proxy war in that already poor country, the starving children, the destruction of their already shaky infrastructure—the reaction is at most a shrug.

If you go off about malaria, and how the banning of DDT by elitist Western environmentalists led to the deaths of many thousands if not millions of African children, you’ll get a few frowns and a few more, “Oh, but they need to use mosquito nets.” That’s when I start frothing at the mouth, being a bit more passionate about this cause than most. Did YOU ever sleep under a mosquito net on a hot African night??  HUH?? And how many mosquitoes found their way to your ears in spite of the net?! I thought so. The amount of DDT a farmer used to spray on ONE ACRE would protect 100,000 African homes for three months! And it doesn’t enter the food chain the same way because it’s spread on the walls in tiny amounts, not sprayed on the ground in gallons. DID YOU KNOW THAT??

Yes. Well. Deep breath.

So I wrote about race, sort of, which is a popular cause, especially among politically liberal and extra-educated people.

And WHOOSH. In public, in private, by blog comments and email and Facebook message and telegraph and Pony Express, I was inundated with articles and examples and revival-meeting pleas and most of all Information, all from Concerned White People, because they knew that if they just gave me the right facts, then I would join their cause with fervor. They believed in me, that I was a Good Smart Person, and Good Smart People do this, once they Learn and Know.

They were as mesmerizing as the Romanian students of old, and I fell for it.

So I decided to Do Something, namely interview people from other colors and cultures and give them a chance to speak.

A number of people waved their hands in the air and said, “Pick me!!”

So I did. I got acquainted, sent the questionnaire--a long set of open-ended questions designed to not steer the answers in any direction--waited, reminded.

And one by one they all dropped out of the project. Messages and emails went unanswered, deadlines passed, silence prevailed.

Were my questions too complicated? Should I have done phone interviews instead? Was I being all White People Talking and they had no patience for that?

Or was God telling me in this way that this was not the Cause he had chosen for me, that I would be more effective with passions that bubbled from my own soul rather than ones imposed from without?

Was this a cause I should offer friendly support from a distance rather than plunge into myself?

Was it enough to be aware, as opportunities arose, but to focus on simply being a decent person and loving God and the people he put in my life?

Yes, I concluded, feeling like after all these years I had gone just a bit Ella Enchanted again.

So that was almost the end of that project.

Almost: because I did do one fascinating phone interview.

And also because I had an epiphany: so much of today’s writing on race and privilege is like being at a Bill Gothard seminar.

Those posts are yet to come, if God leads thusly.


  1. Does this lady take orders for weighted blankets? I have been interested in purchasing several. Thanks you can email me at

    1. She takes orders, but there are 60 people ahead of you in line. I'll email you more info.

  2. My husband (though Dutch & not Romanian) was in YWAM for several years before we married. He traveled to many different countries, learned a lot & still loves missions. BUT he had a crazy amount of fear that our children would join YWAM. He would say, "Dorcas, they are actually Youth Without A Map! Youth Without A MEAL!" ������

    1. That sounds like a good story...

  3. I so appreciate this about you, Dorcas. When I read your posts, I don't sense an "elitist" attitude of one who is trying to convince the whole world that her brand of life is exactly how theirs should look (though, like you, I think, I'd love to see the whole world find salvation and new life in Christ!). I went to college in Portland with another Harrisburg Smucker, related distantly to your family. I too am a follower of Jesus, but as you are part of a Mennonite church and I am part of a nondenominational, charismatic-style church, our styles of following Jesus are different. Yet through your smart, unapologetic, yet warm and welcoming writing, I feel I could sit down with you over a cup of tea and enjoy great talks about many areas of life. Thank you for the refreshing way you share your personal convictions and thoughts.

    1. I so appreciate your comment because I very much want to create connections and not division. I am sure we could encourage each other over tea.

  4. Thank you! This was a freeing, refreshing read.

  5. I'm relieved that a few on your list have escaped as subjects of one of my blog posts or one of the current events topics I've assigned at school. I found it freeing when I realized that God assigns different burdens to different people so that all the work gets done. One corollary to that is that if those to whom burdens are assigned refuse to carry them (which may involve spreading the word) maybe the work really can't get done, and that would not be a good thing. Another corollary is that God assigns only what we are responsible to carry at any one time, and thus the passionate responses may rightly come and go.

  6. Thank you so much for this article!!!

  7. And with a final sentence comparing race issues and Bill Gothard, the post ends and we are left waiting for the statement to be fleshed out. Good thoughts though. I think I'll subscribe via RSS. Blessings to you and yours.

  8. My very soul reverberated with this post, and I was so thankful for the good reminder today! Too often I feel guilty if I'm not following everyone else's passion, especially if I get the feeling that I'm not quite spiritual enough if I don't...yet, God's place for me may be different, and I don't need to apologize for that. And if they think worse of me for it, I need to be secure in Christ and not worry about it. Thank you!

  9. Huge thanks to everyone who GOT what I was trying to say.