Faithful in Small Matters
BY KELLY SWAN | November 20, 2017
Here in the Ignatian Solidarity Network office, dialogue frequently centers around language—around how we speak about the people we seek to advocate for and stand with.
I am a straight, white woman. My co-workers at ISN are all white. We speak to a demographic—primarily students, staff, and alumni affiliated with private schools—which is historically white.
The way we speak about race, about immigration, about people living at the margins matters deeply.
The way we speak about race, about immigration, about people living at the margins matters deeply.Click to tweet
Yet, those words, when typed on a page, are small.
The servants in today’s Gospel were entrusted with talents, the “small matters” of their master, and were joyfully rewarded with “great responsibility” when they were faithful and fruitful.
However, talents, historically gold or silver objects of great physical weight and monetary value, signify that the “small matters” entrusted to the servants may have been worth a great deal. And thus so are the “small matters” of how I use words to speak about those who experience oppression that I do not personally encounter.
Speaking rightly, using these small but incredibly powerful and weighty words on a page, demands work.
It requires an ability to sit down, be quiet, and listen to those who choose to tell their stories to better understand the lived experience of inequality.
Speaking rightly, using these small but incredibly powerful and weighty words on a page, demands work.Click to tweet
It requires an ability to admit missteps and educate myself to better stand with others.
It requires that I examine my own privilege, to not only transform the way I use words in a press release or social media post, but to be transformed in a way that allows me to more fully be entrusted with that “great responsibility” of standing with and working alongside those whom our systems and society oppress.
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.
What a humble and beautiful admission!
I am married to a Syrian immigrant for 24 years. We have 4 children, and until now have never experienced any discrimination. We were blessed to have my husband’s family escape the ravages of their civil war in Syria 5 years ago, and they have been living with us. It has been an adjustment. But me-a white, Roman Catholic, experienced discrimination in my very own church! After the Texas shooting, the pastor speaking at a daily mass, said, “We need to be aware of aware of surroundings. For example, a few years ago, two men clearly of ‘middle eastern descent’ came into the church on Christmas Eve, looked around and left. I could not believe my ears. Silent tears fell from my eyes when I went up to receive the Eucharist. I now have taken it upon myself to carry the cross of my family’s injustice; but we too must share the journey and stop the ignorance and fear mongering. Thank you again.
Thank you being open to letting God “mold your clay”. You will helps us all learn new ways of being more verbally sensitive to moving the tough conversations forward. Unfortunately, being white in America is a privilege we never thought about. It’s time we be more welcoming and aware of “others”.
How true. To work with those who are more outside my margins has given me “special grace and humility” as St. Elizabeth of Hungary said over 800 years ago. A constant work of understanding.
Admitting missteps and educating myself to better stand with others is a massive dose of grace.