Importance of Listening to Personal Stories in Social Justice

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I have come to understand that in authentically pursuing social justice at various levels, I must start by listening to the personal stories of the underprivileged, vulnerable, wounded, and poor. Here is why this has become so critically important for me.

Such listening to the experiences of the deprived will enable me to be reflective and discerning about the movement of the Spirit within, in relation to my relationship with the poor - and to hear the voice of love and compassion within, prompting love-based actions.

Furthermore, truly listening to the stories of the needy will allow me to hear previously unfelt and unheard whispers, as well as silent groans that can have a tremendous influence on the outer condition. Such awareness and loving monitoring of the inner state is the starting place for future betterment.

Third, in the heartfelt hearing of experiences of the unfortunate, I can journey with them back to their own heart and woundedness. My hope then lies in our mutual experience of the fact that we are not abandoned in our woundedness, but as Maher expresses, "that our wounds become the places of encounter with the wounded, compassionate heart," and that this becomes a place of transformation and new growth.

Fourth, I believe that it is only in listening to the stories of the poverty-stricken that I will truly understand their plight. And, if I understand, and can show that I understand, then I can also love. Thich Nhat Hanh writes that “when you understand, you cannot help but love . . . And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people”. I realize that unless my listening leads to compassionate love, nothing real or lasting will come of it.

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