How many idealists does it take to change the world? According to Bread for the World, it only takes one.
In fact, ONE is what they are calling their recent initiative to raise awareness in America about the ongoing tragedy of global poverty, hunger and AIDS. And there have been some interesting ones drawn into this effort. The campaign features luminaries as disparate as Rev. Pat Robertson, founder of the evangelical “700 Club,” and Bono, lead singer for the rock group U-2.
Bread for the World is an international agency committed to battling world hunger. The ONE campaign is an effort to advance that work, not just by raising money, but by getting people involved in finding real solutions to our world’s real problems.
From their Web site we read: “The ONE Campaign is for people like you who care and want to know simple things you can do to help. ONE is a new effort by Americans to rally Americans–ONE by ONE–to fight the emergency of global AIDS, extreme poverty and chronic hunger. The ONE Campaign is engaging Americans across the nation–in churches and businesses, online and on college campuses, at community meetings and concerts. ONE is showing people the steps they can take to fight global AIDS, hunger and poverty.”
The significance of using ONE as the central symbol of this effort begins with the simple notion that as human beings we are all connected one to another. In America, our tradition of rugged individualism often obscures this obvious truth.
We like to think of ourselves as a nation of self-made individuals who are perfectly capable of standing on our own two feet. But that kind of thinking won’t get us very far, and it’s not true. If you can tie your own shoes, go to the bathroom by yourself, read a newspaper and drive a car, you are the recipient of the gifts of community.
Readers of the Bible should know this better than most. Jesus taught that we are all children of God, part of God’s family—even if we don’t know it or believe it. In another part of the New Testament Paul describes the hope of a community so tightly bound together that if even a single member suffers, the whole community suffers.
And in our world, there is great suffering.
For instance, every day over 20,000 people die of hunger—most of these are children. Why are we not up in arms about this? One reason is because the problem seems insurmountable. We don’t think about it because we don’t know what to do about it.
Bread for the World wants to convince us that even the activity of ONE person can make a difference. This is the positive side of our rugged individualism. We can stand and raise a lone voice of concern if we so choose. We can write to government leaders, and we can write a check.
We can speak to neighbors, and speak in our churches. We can as ONE person contribute to helping America understand that our place of privileged wealth and power creates both responsibility and opportunity to act on behalf of the least of these children in God’s family.
There is a heart of compassion that beats at the center of the universe. May our hearts beat as ONE with that heart so that justice and mercy will have hands and feet and a voice.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.