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  • Kelly Finlaw

Bound Liberation

I can think of hundreds of noble reasons to help someone, to offer a hand to someone in need.

I spent a good portion of my life believing that you should help people that are less fortunate than you. I believed that helping was a responsibility because I had more than I needed and others didn’t have enough.

The more than I see the world, the more that I see in my own community, the more I realize how flawed that way of thinking is.

It’s harmful. Toxic, actually.

The work of justice and equality isn’t necessary because I was born into privilege and have the means to help.

The work of justice and equality is necessary because we live in a world where some people can be born into privilege and some people can be born into injustice.

The work of justice and equality is necessary because we belong to each other. Everyone. All of us. Your liberation is bound with mine.

None of us thrive when anyone suffers.

Western culture teaches us to work hard, to make a life for yourself, to get ahead. Then, if you have any sense of altruism or guilt you’re obligated to help those who have less.

Perhaps nothing about that seems virulent, but it is. That mentality allows a person to give whatever is convenient and continue living a comfortable life.

Buy the homeless woman on the street a warm meal. Sign up for monthly donations to your favorite charity. Buy a pair of shoes that gives a kid you’ve never met a pair of shoes.

Feel better about yourself.

Go back to your normal.

That philosophy lets you do just that. It lets you go back to your normal.

You give. You feel better. You sleep a little better at night.

I’m not advocating for living more selfishly, for never giving anything to those in need. That’s not what I mean to convey.

I love philanthropy. I own several pairs of Toms and I’ve seen kids in every developing country I’ve ever visited wearing their very own pairs.

My sister empties her pockets for every homeless person she sees when she visits New York. I’m not good at that. I see homeless people every single day and very stop to find ways to help.

I’m not down playing what good can be done with a “one and done” act of kindness.

But here’s the thing - there’s nothing sustainable about “one and done.”

There is nothing that pulls you out of your life and demands your continued attention. There is nothing that wakes you up the next morning with a burning desire to spend your energy on long term solutions.

That’s where the problem is for me.

When we shift our thinking to understand that we are actually connected to everyone and everything around us, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, then we are obligated to give more than a few coins when we see someone in need.

We are obligated to give ourselves.

We are obligated to give ourselves the same way that we do when our own families are in need. There’s not a damn thing that will keep me from protecting my family.

We’re connected to the human race and the planet in a similar way.

That’s a responsibility that keeps me up at night.

Too many issues that break my heart. Too many problems to give my energy to.

I can lose myself in it, or at least I have at different points in my life.

I felt bound to all of it and I couldn’t authentically “one and done” any of it.

What has helped bring balance to my own life has been matching my passion with communities that need those services and building relationships within those parameters.

Education. Training. The arts.

Long term relationships, sustainable solutions.

Not because it makes me feel better about the privilege that I was born into, but because my liberation is bound together with everyone else’s. No one can be free until everyone is free.

I'm connected to the staff at HACEY, to the girls at this camp, and to Olay and his sweet mother.

I didn't come here to build a house or dig a well and go home with less guilt.

I came here because this is something that I can give my life to for always, something that I have been giving my life to for the past 13 years.

That’s why I teach. That’s why I go. That’s why I brought Lily.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

-Mother Teresa


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