Inspired by a Tour Guide (Race Relations US-Midwest Newsletter)

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I spent this past weekend in Traverse City, MI with my oldest daughter to have some mom and daughter time. I very much enjoyed this precious time with my daughters. We get to laugh, walk, eat, relax, and talk…and talk…and talk.

During our visit, we decided to take the tour at The Village at the Grand Traverse Commons that used to be the Michigan Asylum and the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital. It now looks nothing like it was when we saw it about ten years ago, when they were run-down old buildings. The city and private businesses took the challenge to renovate (not restore) most of the place. Today you can find there a Mercato, offices, condominiums, and apartments for sale, along with other business.

We get to laugh, walk, eat, relax, and talk…and talk…and talk.

The guide of the tour, a man around his 70’s, was very knowledgeable. When he was still in elementary school, his dad used to take along on visits to the hospital so his son could learn that people with mental illnesses were people like them, and not rare beings that even their own families distanced themselves from.

In those days, having a mental health problem was reason enough to lock a person in one of these hospitals and practically forget about them. Our guide continued visiting the hospital. He took the school band with him, the drama group, and the choir to perform for the patients. Eventually, he became a strong advocate for mental health issues.

When he was still in elementary school, his dad used to take along on visits to the hospital.

After I listened to our tour guide, I got thinking: in what ways are we parents molding and shaping our children to become advocates for justice? Justice is not often a subject we talk about at our dinner tables. Many people tend to relate the word justice with socialism or politics. However, justice and justice advocacy are biblical values.

Our present culture invites us to misunderstand the true meaning of these biblical values. Our individualistic culture teaches us to think in what I deserve, my rights, and my privileges. The foundation of justice is God’s love. When we do not care for those who suffer and we do not advocate for the marginalized, the oppressed, we need to ask ourselves if we truly know and love God. Justice and advocate for justice has nothing to do with politics, right or left wing. Justice is about God’s love.

In what ways are we parents molding and shaping our children to become advocates for justice?

What am I teaching, through my daily life, to my children, grandchildren, and students about advocating for justice? I do not know if the tour guide’s father planned for his son to become an advocate for mental illness. Our Father expects us to become advocates for justice.

In our small groups, for instance, how much do we talk about racial disparities in correctional facilities, or about racial disparities in health care, in education, et cetera? Jesus challenged, criticized, and disobeyed laws when they got in the way of helping people. Jesus was a threat to the political and religious authorities. What is needed for a person, a small group, or a congregation to become advocates for justice?

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