Social support is likely to be part of a comprehensive whole health model, but not so, social justice. Yet I believe it to be an integral component, and I offer a glimpse into a recent gathering at the home of one of my Soroptimist sisters, and then I’ll close with why I believe we do what we do. But first, a little history, beginning with a statement from a British Soroptimist in 1939:
“Two things are clear to us in the midst of the bewilderment and distress of these present days. One is that, as a band of women whose aim is the furthering of international understanding, we must stick together and keep in active working order our Soroptimist organisation, the value of which is greater than ever before. The other is that when we emerge from this nightmare and the struggle is over we must be stronger than ever to see that all our influence is cas[t] on the side of a just and lasting peace.”
Soroptimists embarked on rescuing members of the Vienna club and their families, who were threatened by the Nazi regime. American Soroptimists donated funds and clothing. Many clubs across Europe were forced [to] meet clandestinely, making clothes, mending and preparing all manner of items needed. Service projects included opening Rest Rooms for women in the forces. A New Zealand club set up a refugee relief committee for people escaping from Europe.1
For our club, the month of March falls between two major fundraisers, and Sue had the truly bright idea to gather, to relax, and to share a meal and conversation before we hit the ground running into the May event.
Loretta was giving me a ride to the party, and when I arrived at her house I met her 19 year old cat. Its sister cat died two weeks ago, and when I approached him, he arched his back, and I think I felt every vertebra of his spine. By strange contrast, there was a rat in the garage (which I did not see); it caused engine damage to Loretta’s car, so she had laid out poison but hated doing so. What about a trap? I asked. She replied, I couldn’t bear to deal with a trapped rat!
We arrived to the warm welcome of our host who was out on her front porch. Inside we loaded our plates with good eats while sisters filled our glasses, then we found seats in the living room and kitchen. But as is my party habit (there are worse), I moved around with my food and drink, until finally landing, for good, on the back patio, following Rose, our club president, who went there to smoke. Everyone should be out here, I said, there’s a nice breeze, more room, and less echo. She agreed, Right, and I can keep smoking and still visit.
I asked Rose about her mother. Rose temporarily moved in with her mom. She can take care of herself, but I have a daily routine that includes setting things out that I know she’ll need, for meals and so forth. In appreciation for 45 years with her company, Rose was given an iPad. She showed it to her mother, taught her how they can play Scrabble on it from a distance, and her 88 year old mother was hooked. She pretty much confiscated the iPad. Scrabble is how Rose checks on her during the day while she is at work 40 miles away. If her mother hasn’t made a move in a while, she calls her up. Brilliant.
Jo soon joined us, and I liked listening to her story about how she and her husband met for the first time while vacationing in Puerto Rico, she from New York and he from California. After a scant three encounters they were engaged. They were married for 40 years before he died, and last night she spoke of him with such affection. When asked, So what drove you nuts about him? What didn’t you like? (There had to be something!). She could only answer, He was just such a nice guy. Jo moved to California when she married, but she shared her dream of returning to New York and living in a loft apartment in the city, I don’t want to go anywhere once I’m there, just sit and watch the world go by. I like that.
One sister was visiting from out of state after having returned to her home state in the south a year ago. Her house and community were inconveniently located in the path of the 2014 too-far-south polar vortex, and she spent at least two weeks holed up with just her beloved cats for company, while the snow powdered and piled. I worried about her, emailed her, she was fine. She maintained her Soroptimist membership and, as former membership committee chair, still tries to recruit new ladies for our club. I asked her, after hearing her tell of the new life she’s settled into, You seem settled, but what’s missing? She quickly replied, My friends, I don’t have any friends. And that made me sad. But then I thought and said, We will pray (quoting a friend in Kenya) for friends to show up this spring.
At different points in the evening, Sue, Bonnie, and Loretta asked and commented with concern and interest about my new business, How are you marketing yourself? You need to convince people that they need you! How was yesterday’s meeting with so and so? I’ll get you on our program schedule. And I know she will.
Indicators of social support are a sense of belonging, of self-worth, and of security, and I’ve experienced all three from serving with Soroptimist International. And yet I daresay most of us would have never met had we not been drawn to a common social justice cause. In our business meetings there is some chit chat, but mostly it’s work. And the work is the business of how to best serve women and girls in need. Soroptimist, after all, is best translated from Latin as the best for women. Every year we raise and give over $20,000 to empower the lives of women and girls in various contexts of life. Some are victims of domestic violence who are in transition, and some are teens who overcome major personal obstacles yet still display leadership on campus. It can be gritty as we work to live out our mission, but for the ladies who stay, who push through, and put up, we see the outcome and impact of an important union of social support and social justice.
Have a read of two authors who express well why social justice matters to whole health:
To be really at home is to be at peace, and our lives are so intricately interwoven that there can be no real peace for any of us until there is real peace for all of us. Frederick Buechner
A sense of justice comes with the kit of being human. And, The line between justice and injustice, things being right, and not being right, can’t be drawn between us and them. It runs right down through the middle of each one of us. N. T. Wright
Thanks for reading.