Last weekend as I was driving around to run some errands and hit up a girls basketball game, I was listening to some past episodes of The Catalyst Podcast. Back in January the podcast featured three interviews with individuals who had spoken at the TED Conference.
All three interviews were good, but the discussion with Bryan Stevenson really stood out to me. He leads the Equal Justice Initiative and shared these staggering statistics: In 1972, 300,000 people in the US were incarcerated. Today, there are 2.3 million. The US has 6 million people on probation and we have the highest rate of incarceration.
As he shared some of his thoughts on this issue, the gentleman doing the interview asked him how the church at large could engage with this issue. I thought his response spoke not only to this issue, but to so many more: “There is power in proximity to the things that matter.” In other words, as you get close to the issue, you are more able to understand it and be involved with it.
I thought how true that is in so many arenas of life. Once you are close to an issue, you have more compassion and awareness of it. If you have a family member go through a sickness or disease, the proximity makes you more aware of how it impacts others. I can think of many ministries, groups and causes that began because someone had a close friend or family member experience a life-changing event and it moved that person to action.
His response of the power of proximity speaks to our need to be involved in the lives of people. It can be easy to insulate ourselves, go about our routines and schedules, and miss out on what others are experiencing. While we can’t engage in every hurt and problem we see, there is something that changes in us when we experience life with others. There is power in proximity to the things that matter.