This week I head to Virginia for a fund raising trip. As usual, this is both exciting and daunting. I get incredibly excited and love having the chance to talk to people about India and Kolkata, about human trafficking and the efforts to counter it, about what God says about justice and love put into action, about the church and the individual Christian’s place in facing the evil in the world with a hope rooted in joy, and sharing the freedom and joy and hope with those who are in both physical and spiritual chains. When I talk to people who engage in the story, who are genuinely interested (whether or not they end up as supporters), and who ask questions, give opinions, and tell their own stories – it becomes fun and meaningful.
But, on these support trips, there are always some awkward, discouraging conversations that happen too – well meaning individuals who ask about India, listen politely, but through the entire conversation wear a plastered-on expression that says: “Please don’t ask me for my money.” It’s disheartening to actively watch someone lose interest in a cause that I’m so passionate about – missing the point because they’re hearing a sales pitch rather than a story.
Can something that’s so real to me really just blend into the noise for others? I’ve walked the streets and felt the darkness, heard the stories of prostitutes and freedom fighters and developed a passion for telling those stories to the world – and I want people to hear and engage and care. But I wonder whether this blurs into the bombard of other appeals. When I describe the crumbling beauty of Kolkata and the realities of a life lost to the alleyway pimps and the cutthroat traffickers, how often are those histories and those lives filed away in the same category as canned soup drives and Girl Scout cookie sales and NPR pledge week?
Of course, the reality is, I do need to talk about money. Without financial support, I can’t get to Kolkata in the first place. But I wonder whether, stripped of the request-for-support aspect of these conversations, they would more often become actual conversations and stories to be heard and discussed, if the tears and the rage and the questions would come more readily.
This week, one supporter invited me over to a home brew session. I love that. Just hanging out, making beer, and talking about the world and its beauties and evils and joys. Doing life.
The intersection of real stories with real life is where genuine engagement with the world’s need happens.