We all know that we need to breathe in order to survive. During my time with InnerCHANGE in South Africa, I learned that to engage the world in a balanced, life-giving way, I also needed to take figurative breaths—breathing in by pausing for contemplation, and breathing out by acting in hope-filled ways. You can find five simple ideas for breathing in through contemplation at my previous post. After you breathe in, you have to breathe out!
Maybe you find yourself holding your breath—because taking action sounds intimidating, and “changing the world” feels impossible. Yet the truth is, each of us has influence; each of us has something to offer. And all we can do is start small. So here are some simple suggestions for breathing out, engaging the world to see community and justice grow.
1. Become educated about local issues
Becoming informed and educated about the issues in your community is the beginning step to being actively involved. This may look like reading a local paper or speaking to your neighbors. Listen deeply to the stories of pain, injustice, and suffering as well as the stories of joy, hope, and positive transformation. This will help you to see how you can serve and walk alongside the people around you.
2. Pursue a passion in the community
A great place to start is with what you enjoy doing. What are your interests and passions? How can you use your talents to be active in your community? If you love baking, could you pass on the skill to a neighbor? If you are into sports, could you teach some kids and invest in them through it?
You don’t need to be an expert to get involved; we all have something we can share.
Is there a hobby you want to learn? You could find someone from the community to teach you while at the same time empowering them in their gifting.
3. Connect with the vulnerable and marginalized
Jesus has a special leaning towards the poor; he chose to spend time with the oppressed and outcasts. We choose to follow him to the margins of society. We learn from our neighbors what it means to suffer but we also see God’s light flickering. This lifestyle reminds us of our fragility and privilege. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but our hope is to be part of reminding our community that they have assets and power.
In every community there are people on the edges. These people may be obvious or you may have to pay attention, but take time to connect and learn from them. Make friends with people who are different from you. Find ways to advocate for those who are struggling.
4. Prayer walk
This is a discipline that I would struggle to do if it wasn’t part of my team’s rhythm. (You might want to find other people to do this with you!) Each Wednesday morning we walk around different parts of our local community and pray blessings. We pray into the issues that affect our neighbors and look for signs of hope and transformation. My ideal would be to pray every time I walk. Prayer walking allows you to breathe out goodness over your surroundings and intentionally be present in your neighborhood.
5. Enjoy food with neighbors
We all have to eat and something special can happen around the table. A shared meal can level the playing field so we see one another’s humanity. Debbie loves opportunities to enjoy meals with other people. Why not invite an acquaintance or neighbor over for a meal? Be part of reaching out and strengthening community where you are.
How do you breathe out in your community? What other ideas for active engagement with the world do you have?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Horrocks and his wife, Debbie, live in Glasgow, Scotland. They served with InnerCHANGE in South Africa from 2013-2016 and are discerning the next place God has for them to live intentionally among the poor and marginalized in Scotland. This post was originally shared on their personal blog.