BY CHRIS KERR | October 15, 2013
As an elementary school teacher many years ago, I desperately wanted to challenge my students to explore the realities of the world in ways that would cause them to care about others. I tried everything from literature to films to see if I could get them to see the world from new perspectives. I wanted to “teach solidarity,” as the late Dean Brackley, S.J., challenges us in this quote:
“I invite you to discover your vocation in downward mobility. It’s a scary request… The world is obsessed with wealth and security and upward mobility and prestige. But let us teach solidarity, walking with the victims, serving and loving. I offer this for you to consider – downward mobility.
And I would say in this enterprise there is a great deal of hope.
Have the courage to lose control.
Have the courage to feel useless.
Have the courage to listen.
Have the courage to receive.
Have the courage to let your heart be broken.
Have the courage to feel.
Have the courage to fall in love.
Have the courage to get ruined for life.
Have the courage to make a friend.”
My students had the luxury of having someone offer materials that challenged them to “listen” and “receive.” However, outside of the classroom we are often able to make choices that shelter us from the path of “downward mobility.” The encounter with the homeless person on the street that never happens because we choose another path. A conversation that never takes place with a co-worker regarding the demeaning comments made toward another colleague, because it would be too awkward. Or the letter never written about the unjust labor practices connected with a favorite clothing or grocery store, because there is just never time. The path to downward mobility has many entrances that we can choose to take or pass by every day.
Tomorrow, we remember Fr. Brackley on the 2nd anniversary of his death. His loss offers us a chance to examine our willingness to “lose control” and be touched in ways that call us to deeper love of our brothers and sisters. I hope you will join me in this challenging journey toward a world vision grounded in solidarity.
PHOTO SOURCE: University of Central America (www.uca.edu.sv)
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.