Some time in the early 1980's El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war. People were fleeing the death squads for safety and the chance at a better life in the United States. Our Unitarian Universalist congregation symbolically provided sanctuary to a family. While the family didn't technically live in the church itself, our congregation sponsored them.
I'm not sure how it all worked out but I recall that the family had very few options to travel about and anyone aiding them could risk arrest. One afternoon my dad drove the father to a medical appointment.
This caused much concern in my little brother. He was of the age where police were always right and people shouldn't break laws. He was upset that my dad would risk making the police angry.
While I didn't fully understand the dynamics I knew this man needed medical care. I was also proud that my dad was taking a risk to help someone.
What I also didn't understand was how this deed ran counter to my dad's upbringing. He was born on a dairy farm in Virginia in 1940. He grew up in the segregationist south, where the white kids went to one school and the blacks to another (of course that happens today - while it was by law in the 1950's, it is through economics today). He earned his undergraduate degree at a public university that did not formally admit women until 1972. It would be understandable if he carried the privilege of a white man.
And yet, he has always worked to make the world, both in his neighborhood and much farther away, a better place. He has been a town meeting member and active player in local politics for decades. He has been on the board for an elder housing organization, a domestic violence shelter and an organization that advocates for severely developmentally disabled adults. I wish I had a recording of him describing volunteering at a food bank for the residents of the Chinatown neighborhood. He talks about the pride of the elderly men and women who entered the church as they walked in to receive their food.
He had a heart attack last year the day before he was to lead two church services about the genocide in Darfur. He was very worried about how the services would go even though he was told he needed triple bypass heart surgery. So while he couldn't get himself discharged from the hospital - he promised to return -he spent the days in the hospital trying to get the nurses to read his pamphlets about Darfur. To this day he still wears his green Not on Our Watch bracelet.
I've gone on to a career in social justice - first through public policy to expand health care coverage and now working on economic justice.
My father is the reason why I think I can make a difference.
Because he drove a man to a doctor's appointment.
This post is part of a blog exchange. Thirty-eight year old Allison can be found proudly wearing a pink "daddy's little girl" shirt. She is the mother of three children- twin 6 1/2 year old boys and a three year old girl and works outside the home as an advocate for economic justice. She found the the quotes at Nancy's place Just Thinking inspiring. Today the thoughtful Nancy is over at Allison's place - Soccer Mom in Denial. You can find more exchanges at The Blog Exchange.