We can always act. We can always add teeth. We can always do more.
— Kentucky State Representative John Tilley, father of 3 girls
Maybe you read the title of today’s post and you thought, “Who said we should give up?”
Well, I do on a pretty regular basis.
At least I say these things to myself every time I find myself on the elliptical machine in front of a newscast, every time I see a recap of a presidential debate, every time I pick up a newspaper, every time I turn on the radio in the car.
Yes, I’ve nearly thrown in the towel. I do vote, of course, even if my votes are cast as a means of registering my discontent with the two-party system. I find it hard to believe that the politics in our country–the government itself, the polarization and finger pointing and name calling, the role media has in it–are doing anything but harm to our communities.
Yet last Wednesday–February 1st, National Freedom Day–I found myself sitting with a handful of other folks under the shadow of Abraham Lincoln in the rotunda of our state capitol building, a place I’d never been.
As you know, I care a lot about the issue of human trafficking. It’s a serious problem around the globe–sex trafficking, labor trafficking, debt bondage, children being stolen from their parents, teenagers being drugged, exploited, and moved across national boundaries. And you probably even know that it’s a serious problem here in our upstanding US of A, too.
But you probably don’t know that it’s a serious issue in your own backyard.
Surely trafficking only occurs on the coasts, in big cities, along major highways, at major sporting events. Surely.
I live in Kentucky, for crying out loud.
But a few folks I know who care about these things were going to show their support for a new piece of legislation that would provide stiffer penalties to those accused of human trafficking here in our state–penalties like the seizure of assets, similar to what occurs in the case of drug trafficking, and making the sexual exploitation of minors a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. (House Bill 350 also provides support and resources for trafficking victims.)
So I went, too.
I listened to state representatives talk about the bill and why it’s important legislation, to folks from the Kentucky Rescue and Restore Coalition recap trafficking statistics (67 cases identified right here in our state in the last four years, 135 victims receiving support services) and why we need to do more, to a nun who challenged us to think about Matthew 25 in terms of those exploited by human trafficking, especially children. It was really the Matthew 25 thing that did it for me.
I sat there in an uncomfortable metal folding chair, with my own child squirming and kicking within me, and I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. I was to be here, sitting, doing the work of justice by encouraging this small glimmer of hope within a broken system.
And that I wasn’t to give up yet.
I needed a reminder. I know that there are people working to change the world, to heal our broken communities, to bring justice to the places where right now, quite frankly, there is very little justice to be found. Some of them are working in our neighborhoods. But some of them work in politics, too.
Though they usually aren’t the ones on TV pointing fingers.
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”