Fun fact #1: the distance between the house where I live today and the Capitol of Texas is Approximately 13 miles. Now that I think about it that is about as close to the Texas political process as I care to reside. On the other hand the distance between the hospital where I was born and Reynosa Mexico is only about 12 miles.
Fun Fact #2: The daily commute from my house in South Austin to my roommates work in Georgetown may take him up to an hour depending on traffic. If it where any further then I believe I would be looking for a new roommate. For Comparison, many low wage workers residing in Reynosa Mexico will find themselves commuting to jobs in Mcallen, Pharr or my home town Edinburg. Their commute may take them to jail depending on status.
Fun fact #3: Borders are weird. Some time long ago two groups of people decided to draw an arbitrary line on a map and suddenly two places God laid down right next to each other become worlds apart. Laws, Languages, and Currencies all abruptly change on one fixed line in space. A persons wealth, opportunity sometimes their basic safety can be altered tremendously by a simple accident of [for instance] being born 12 miles north of one disgustingly polluted body of water.
From here on out, none of my facts are going to be fun. Somehow these imaginary lines effect our vision. Because we only see reality on our side of the line. Who do you picture when you think of the “middle class”? What do you picture average household wealth to look like?
In 2010 that median American income was over five times the median income in Mexico. In 2008 more than half the world lived on less than $2.50 a day ($890 Dollars a year). Or about .029 % the median income of the united states. Poverty worldwide is rapidly decreasing, but this much remains clear, if we look past our imaginary lines we can only conclude we are living in exceptional decadence.
When people cross those imaginary lines we seem to be a little bewildered and confused. We argue if our visitors need to be cared for if they are sick. We debate if their kids really need to be educated. We become concerned their expanded economic opportunities must come at a cost to us. When people travel a long way to work for a low wage to support their families, can we honestly claim to see greedy opportunists? Wouldn’t their motivations be better characterized as a strong desire to work and active love for their families?
But while were on the subject of greedy opportunists, at least some people in our society are thinking well beyond our imaginary lines. American business has gone global, our supply chains have stretched across continents. Chances are your cell phone was designed by engineers in Austin (ok maybe California). Constructed by workers in China. And built with materials from Africa. As an engineer here in Austin, I know I am genuinely seen as a valuable and dignified employee, but how does the industry see the people on the other side of those lines?
If their customers saw them clearly we would probably be outraged. The materials in some of our cell phones are coming from war torn regions like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2012 many researches found that the extraction of the material needed to make our cell phones further flamed military conflicts in the DRC leading to 5 million deaths and 300,000 Women raped in the last 15 years. And many more people have been displaced in the conflict. Today there is not cell phone we can buy today in this country that is known not to have fueled military conflict, but more on that later.
All of these imaginary lines form very real wounds in the Body of Christ. The one, universal Body depends on us seeing and loving our members around the world. When we become divided, the body suffers. When the body suffers, Christ suffers. In this way we continue to share in a common crucifixion. Which is why we, the Church, must forever reach for a common united resurrection. It is the job of every Catholic to help heal those divisions.
We can start the healing process with prayer. Pray for your brothers and sisters across the world, in Mexico, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Honduras, in El Salvador and so on and so on. Pray that God protects, provides and cares for our brothers and sisters as he has protected provided and cared for us. But if our prayers are genuine we should continue with action.
You can act to insure our Brothers and sisters who cross these strange imaginary lines by supporting the Nuns on the Bus. The Nuns on the Bus are a group of strong female religious traveling the country to support just immigration reform. They give several good examples of how you can support their important cause.
Or you can act to heal the division with our immigrants by volunteering at Casa Marianella a refugee house right here in Austin. This will give you some unique opportunities both to both serve our brothers and sisters in need as well as increase your own vision to better see the full body of Christ.
If you are willing to go a little further, I strongly suggest you cross some of the imaginary lines yourself. There are many great Catholic Missions that are truly doing Gods work in lands near and far [ Honduras El Salvador Garbage Dumps].They humbly ask for your prayers and financial support, but you may also choose to spend a short time in mission yourself. I recommend you start by looking at the Catholic Volunteers Network. Then you might want to email Barbara Budde at the Diocese Office of Social Concerns, or just email me… I might have a few ideas for you.
Last but certainly not least, you can do a great deal to serve or not to serve the body of Christ when you choose where to spend your money. The simple fact is that in 2013, “acting locally” just isn’t possible. If you have bought Jeans/Coffee/ or electronics you have already made a global impact. The only question you can ask yourself is was that impact a positive or an exploited one. You have to do your research. There its not always easy to know, but everything from clothes (that is the first link I found you should research more on that) to coffee are offered in just produced brands.
OK, so about those cell phones. Well the truth is that right now you can not buy a phone that was not produced from materials that at least could have been the byproduct of violence. But that is changing. In Amsterdam there is a “social enterprise” Fairphone that is beginning to produce the worlds fist fair trade smart phone. And for you geeks, the phone is rootable! Like every piece of hardware should be!…[sorry that was for the geeks … I digress]
Fairphone will be available some time next year… in Europe. No word as to when such a product will be available in the United States. The best thing we can do now is let it be known that we demand ethically produced electronics! What use is this capitalism thing anyway if it won’t supply consumers demands?
My challenge for you this post is to see past the invisible lines and to help heal the wounds they have inflicted. We are all called to help unite the body of Christ, and united together we are all called to make a more just world.