It’s really easy to sit at my computer and say something on the internet about “social justice”. It’s even pretty easy to sit in a classroom and learn about it. But to actually get outside myself and do justice? That’s hard.
It’s hard because I don’t know where to begin.
It’s always an interesting conversation when people ask me what my major is. “Social Justice,” I say, and sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy. That’s okay, though. I’m not sure I completely understand what I’m doing here.
What I do understand, though, is that I get to spend the next few years learning as much as I can about justice and injustice and the very best ways we can do something about it. And that blows my mind. There’s hardly a day I’m not grateful for it.
The problem is, the more I learn, the less I know.
I’m a perfectionist. Sometimes it feels impossible for me to move forward if I don’t have enough information. Other times it feels impossible because I know that saving the world, which is what I really want to do, is way bigger than what I’m capable of.
I could spend the rest of my life learning about these things without actually doing anything. I could spend years agonizing about what my part should be.
But I can’t help feeling like that would be a waste.
There’s this moment in The Return of the King where this group of warriors and leaders who have taken on the task of defeating Sauron and his Shadow are gathered to discuss what move to make next. They have won a battle but they know that the fight is not over.
They know that their strength is not enough to defeat the darkness. Their hope lies in their ringbearer and his mission of destroying the ring. And they have to choose in the meantime whether to sit around and wait to be destroyed or charge into battle and face almost certain destruction.
It seems as though they can’t win.
And Gandalf says to them,
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant and an emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of these years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
They can’t dictate the outcome for future generations, but they can move. They can do something.
Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to save the world.
Perhaps I need to start looking towards the fields I know and the evil I find there.
For some of us, the evil in the fields we know might be our front yards and neighborhoods. For others, we may be called upon to travel to places we’ve never been before and fight battles there. But none of us are called to do it all.
I love the Social Justice major. I love that I get to study these things. I believe that it’s important. I believe that good intentions are never enough. And I believe that we should know as much as possible and be as strategic with our movement as we can.
It is our job to look towards the sustainability of the movements we’re creating. We need to be asking tough questions about where they’re heading. We should be measuring the impact of what we’re doing.
But we can’t expect ourselves to be able to do it all.
Not one of us has the power to dictate what weather future generations will have.
All we can do is uproot the evil in the fields we know.
I still don’t know what that will look like, but I know that it’s important. It’s time to stop letting what we don’t know paralyze us. Yes, the problems we’re facing are enormous. And yes, we need to know as much as we can about them. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t, or shouldn’t, do something.
Even while we’re learning.