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Community Forum: Rev. George Klohck, ‘Hope proceeds from action’

This week’s writer is the Rev. George Klohck, a retired United Methodist minister who lives in Middlebury.
In the days immediately following the election last November, I saw men in Middlebury, community leaders, speaking through tears. Of course, there were women, too. Later in the Women’s March on the day after the inauguration, when at least 15,000 people went to Montpelier to speak out for justice and kindness and respect for all people, Greta Hardy-Mittell, a junior at Middlebury Union High School, spoke about the poem she had written and then read “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Cry.”
A boy in Greta’s class had told her to get over it. This is some of what she wrote: “Don’t tell me I can’t cry. Don’t tell me I can’t have hope, I can’t matter, I can’t speak up. I can’t keep pounding at the ceilings and the walls because sometimes we need to be angry in order to fight. Sometimes we need to cry in order to see clearly, and right now we all need 20/20 to see how the world fell apart and how we can rebuild it.” Don’t tell me I can’t cry.
The world seemed to have fallen apart and caused many people to cry, to give in to despair. How could we put our government in charge of someone who exhibited not a single one of the qualities that I believe good people admire? Conflict, violence, racial hatred, bigotry, misogyny, greed, fear-mongering seemed to have gone wild and taken over. Except that since then, millions of people have gotten out into the streets to say, no, this is not who we are; this is not what our country is.
Money is not our god. We know that Jesus never said, “Take care of the rich, and then everybody will be O.K.” We remember that Jesus did say, “Take care of the poorest among you, welcome the stranger, and you will be blessed.” If I believe anything is absolutely true, I believe it is a grievous sin for anyone, any government, to allow a few people, billionaires, to take most of this nation’s fortune for themselves and turn their backs on millions of people, children too, who live in poverty as though it is their fault.
Any nation’s fortune should be spent on providing education, health care, and opportunity for everyone. That’s not silly idealism, it has happened in other times in our nation’s history, and it is happening now in other nations. We have to say and believe that it can still happen here. But, how?  To people who consider themselves religious, I want to say now: If our faith does not address issues of justice and peace, we have not listened to Jesus or the prophets or the revered founders of other faiths. If we do not speak out against sin and speak up for those who are abused or neglected, then organized religion is in danger of being irrelevant.
As a Christian I remember that Jesus cried when people suffered. (Many people who were raised in a Sunday School will remember their Bible’s shortest verse was “Jesus wept.”) And famously, Jesus wept over Jerusalem when he saw how people were abused both by the Roman conquerors and the puppet kings and the corrupt religious leaders among Jesus’ own people.  Read Matthew 23; Jesus’ words there about the powerful in Jerusalem apply very closely to what is happening in Washington, D.C. right now.
So, if those who think, as I do, that we are so far off course and in so much trouble in our own country right now, don’t we need to do everything we can to work for positive change and find hope again? I attend a church where we share and experience love and joy. We open our doors and gather to love each other and to welcome others so that we can create as much joy as we are able. It comes with the care we give to each other and offer to anyone who comes.
But, it also results from our finding ways to give to our community. We remember the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our members give themselves to feeding the hungry, caring for the homeless, and providing warm clothing and other things that our neighbors need. Not everyone does all of these things, but nearly everyone contributes in some way to make these things happen. This is putting our prayers to action.
Something that should give everyone hope is the way the Middlebury community is coming together to build mutual understanding and form relationships between diverse groups. Monthly meetings are being held at the Middlebury Congregational Church giving everyone opportunity to tell about their experience and their concerns. At each meeting the Congregational Church has been nearly filled. Christians, Muslims, and Jews come together to support each other and to reach for ways to make our community better.
Bigotry, racial hatred, fear of others must have no place in our community. Hope proceeds from action. If anyone thinks he/she can’t do anything, then I commend this thought from a wonderful writer, Rachel Naomi Remen (onbeing.org/programs/rachel-naomi-remen-listening-generously/) who told about an ancient tradition which says that human beings are all fragments of light and that our task is to come together so that we can shine a light bright enough to bring the whole world out of darkness. She wrote, “And I suspect (this story is) a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I’m not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we’re not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story we are exactly what’s needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?” 
I offer these thoughts to urge my fellow citizens not to give up or to give in. Instead find others with whom we can work to build the nation and world that we want. For me that begins with a religious community and building a faith that focuses on caring for the earth and everyone in it. It also means being in action in some way, seeking justice and kindness for everyone. It often will mean volunteering.
When we do these things, we find more meaningand purpose in living, and we know we are not alone; we find new friends. Many people are suffering, scared, tired, angry, losing hope. Remember the question, “How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to save the world?” Every one of us has something to offer. We can’t do it alone, but let’s show what we can do when we move ahead together. 

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