By Keri Labrant
Solidarity – unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards (Merriam-Webster); from French solidaire meaning interdependent (Online Etymology Dictionary)
What is solidarity, anyway? Ive found myself using that word quite a bit in the last few months and yet suspiciously unable to tell you exactly what it means.
The definition, as I gratefully discovered, meant exactly as I hoped it did unity of a group that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards.
As I have used the word, it has typically been linked with phrases like stand in solidarity with the poor or to really be in solidarity with the least of these.
To me, it requires more commitment than simply fighting for or against something we have never seen or experienced, more involvement than seeing something painful which we are able to easily leave.
Lets just be honest I have lived a privileged life.
No, I would not at all consider our family to be wealthy or particularly close to that designation, but I have lived in genuine comfort my entire life.
Private elementary school, private middle school, preppy public high school, and a private college have kept me surrounded by people in similar financial situations.
Growing up, volunteerism and generosity were certainly encouraged, but looking back on it, it seems like what I really saw was people who enjoyed doing the right thing more than people who ached for the problem of poverty or the injustices they saw.
It seems as though what I witnessed and even the attitude I adopted was to willingly give away my leftovers after my own appetite had been satisfied. Consider giving time as an example. My schedule was filled by school, extracurricular activities, and church and when time allowed, I might volunteer somewhere with a group of my own accord. Often, school or church would be so kind as to coordinate these efforts for me so I just had to show up for a few hours, work in the specific job they had arranged, and go home feeling good about the way I had spent my morning.
The same could be said of material generosity. When my closet was overflowing with clothes I could no longer wear or, for various reasons, chose not to wear, it was the gracious thing to do to set aside my cast-offs for people who couldnt afford to have nice clothes. Again, on occasion, specific groups would organize clothes or blanket drives so that when the time came, I would look through my closet for things I was ready to get rid of, fold them neatly into a garbage bag, and then pat myself on the back for giving the clothes away rather than attempting to make some money selling them.
But I have come to believe that a generosity of convenience is missing something. What is it really worth to people in painfully difficult financial situations for me to throw some old clothes in a bag? What love have I risked in that? Not much. To what degree am I actually helping the cause of the least of these if I give four (or 8 or 20) hours of my time to any random worthy cause or organization?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that giving of our time or our food or our clothing is wrong. I firmly believe that it is far better to give something than to give nothing. But I also believe it is better to give out of our loves than our leftovers.
Continued in: Solidarity: What does it mean? (Pt. 2)
Keri is a 23-year-old adventurer completely dependent upon and addicted to the whims and whispers of God. Born and raised on Florida’s west coast, she graduated from Stetson University in 2006, and is excited to start at Duke Divinity School in Fall 2008. She is passionate about people and music, loves reading, writing, and learning more than she lets on, and blogs at Hold the Light.