Global Sisters Report brings you special coverage during NETWORK's 2016 Nuns on the Bus tour, which started July 11 in Wisconsin, runs through the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and concludes July 29 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. See more photos day by day, News from the Road blogs and videos from NETWORK Lobby, the sponsor of Nuns on the Bus.
During the opening of our day 11 rally Friday at the capitol in Concord, New Hampshire, the Rev. Gary Schulte of the United Church of Christ prayed for all of us in this "pivotal moment in time."
Yes, we as a people face some critical choices as we decide what kind of a people — a country — we want to be.
The urgency and importance of our choices become more apparent as Nuns on the Bus travels along.
I considered myself somewhat aware of how those who are impoverished are struggling. But the eye-opener to the seriousness of what's happening on the economic front came when Amy, a woman with a master's degree in social work, told her story.
She had been working long hours, which afforded little time to spend with her children, so she chose to take a lower-paying job. But the high cost of child care essentially meant she couldn't afford to work. They are now struggling to manage on only her husband's salary and are finding they are unable to pay their rent.
And at this pivotal moment, the insidiousness of racism is being exposed all over the country.
Jazmin Langley, a Gates Millennium Scholar and Democracy Fellow at Open Democracy New Hampshire, passionately spoke of her experience as a biracial woman and how economic and racial gaps are woven into the fabric of our society. It was a message we all needed to hear.
Like so many others, Amy and Jazmine have a deep desire to use their gifts to contribute to the community, to build up society. The gaps are a loss to us all.
It's our choice, and we all have decisions to make at this pivotal time. Are we going to choose:
- to remain isolated or recognize the strength of community?
- to be fearful or reach out with compassion and love?
- to be divisive or acknowledge we're all in this together?
- to think we are better than others or recognize the gifts of all?
- to focus on me first or to put us first?
- to maintain the divides or build bridges across them?
Later that day, we would meet people who are deciding who they want to be.
The residents at Elmwood Gardens, a 250-unit public housing development in Manchester, New Hampshire, are making their choices. Their neighborhood is one of the most diverse locales in New Hampshire, and they are embracing that. They proudly told us of their efforts to establish a residents' council with the assistance of Granite State Organizing Project. Their dedication to helping one another, especially the children, was inspiring. They are choosing community and calling forth one another's gifts.
In the evening, we participated in a caucus hosted at Holy Cross Center Manor. The participants were engaged in identifying the gaps in their area and envisioning a different future with tax justice, family-friendly workplace policies, living wages, decent affordable housing for everyone, access to health care for all, a pathway to citizenship and full participation in our democracy. What a healthy, wholesome and happy community it would be.
Once again, it was a crowd of active people, passionate about changing the conversation, working for just policies and mending the gaps.
At the morning rally, Sr. Eileen Brady reminded us of our own calling. Whenever people say to her, "You are our voice," she responds, "No, YOU have a voice!" And Jazmin was emphatic that it is OUR democracy. It's up to all of us.
As we depart each place, we ask people to make their own choices, to do their part in mending the gaps. We invite them to sign the bus and "ride" with us.
And so in this pivotal moment in time, we invite you to join us in mending the gaps and reweaving the fabric of our society. Hop on the bus with us!
We're all riding with the Nuns on the Bus,
We've got issues we need to discuss,
Get on board and ride with us,
Now's the time to mend the gaps.
- Lyrics by Artie Alpert, Concord, New Hampshire. Sung to the tune "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep."
[Franciscan Sr. Jan Cebula is liaison to women religious in the United States for Global Sisters Report. She joined the Nuns on the Bus on July 19 in Erie, Pennsylvania, and will ride with them for the remainder of the trip, which ends July 29 in Philadelphia.]