A low November morning sun splashes golden light everywhere, transforming the sides of unattractive downtown buildings, for at least a little while, into canvasses of visual interest.
For the moment I sit on the bronze bench beside a serene Rosa Parks, at the northwest corner of the public transit mall. I have sat here with Rosa before.
The serenity on her face and in her bearing seems to be her gift to the world that drives, bikes, and ambles on foot, north-south, then east-west, through the intersection.
I look up Tenth Avenue one block to the Lane County Elections office, where I have just been.
“I have come to cast my ballot,” I proudly declare to the elections clerk. She seems joyful to welcome me and my sealed and signed white envelope.
What’s the payoff for delivering my ballot in person at the county elections office?
Well, I find joy in feeling “counted.” But also, I like the round red-white-and-blue sticker they give me, which proudly declares: I voted!
It’s the same feeling I get every time I donate blood, earning me the red heart-shaped sticker that says: I gave!
There is a generosity in giving blood, I think, as I look out from Rosa’s bronze bench at the people passing by. I give because someone is in need of something I have. Something that may move them from near-death to a place of hope.
There is a generosity, too, in voting, a particular expression of the larger generosity of civic engagement.
It works this way, I discover: When I inform myself, stand up, speak out, and pitch in, I carry my part of the weight of the commonweal. I cannot quantify who benefits when I pitch in. But I know that if none of us pitched in for the heavy lifting, our society would struggle.
The ones at the margins who struggle most might simply go under. Many do already. It’s not always reported.
So we become part of the lifeblood of democracy. I, in my way, and you in yours. Each of us contributing according to the ways we have been gifted, to touch and shape this world of which we are a part.
In a culture of self-sufficiency, where enough usually is more than enough, generosity defies any sensible logic. Generosity, in a culture of self-sufficiency, where enough usually is more than enough, does not pencil out. In fact, generosity often has a hard time gaining traction in those conversations where decisions are made and policies are set. At home or in the town square.
Yet I count myself among those who claim Jesus as their model. He lived generously, not counting the cost. He lived foolishly. And if I am true to my work of following him, then I likewise must live with a foolish generosity.
How? By actually informing myself, standing up, speaking out, and pitching in. Like Jesus in his own time, and true to his mission, I too, now in my time, must carry my part of the weight of the commonweal.
His work was to remain in his Father and reveal him everywhere. My work is to remain in Christ Jesus and to reveal him everywhere. To remain and to reveal. To remain steadfast, to engage, and to not go away. And to press for the righteousness and justice and mercy which define the reign of God.
I lean in one last time against Rosa’s arm. This fearless woman is solid, unflappable. She is resolute in her belief in the dignity of each person. She is here for me, for each one who passes by. And she is not going away.
Neither am I.
Except I need to go right now to board the #93 Veneta bus, and take my seat among workaday riders, on a bus that smells stale with workaday smells.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.