from left: Rabbi Joshua Heller, Reverend William Flippin, Jr., Rabbi Pamela Gottfried

Showing Up

I remember asking, just before the photographer took the picture, “Should we smile, or look serious?” My rabbi quipped, “I only have one facial expression in photos.”

I remember thinking, just after the photographer took the picture, “I’ll have to check Facebook when I get home to see if it’s the same as mine.”

And when I did, I saw we were all wearing genuine smiles.

You might expect us to look discouraged, after our repeated attempts to effect positive change in the legislative process appear to be thwarted. State senators pushed the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) forward, with no discussion of the amendments they devised, no acknowledgment of FADA’s potential to discriminate against and cause harm to citizens. As it reaches the state house for a vote, we people of faith and fighters for justice are called once again to the Capitol.

We redouble our efforts to convince everyone we know: flood the inboxes and jam the telephone lines of our state representatives and Governor, sway them toward justice! As I am typing letters and Facebook pleas, I can feel my jaw set firmly in a determined grimace.

So why am I smiling in the picture?

Because I know I am not alone. Standing together with my colleagues, Rabbi Joshua Heller and Reverend William Flippin, Jr., I feel—at least momentarily—uplifted. I am encouraged when my colleagues quote the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, along with Maya Angelou and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. I am secure in my belief that showing up and speaking up are essential to the process of change.

There is another reason I am smiling.

Because I almost stayed home. I felt a temptation to sit alone and lament how no one listens to faith leaders, and to wait for the business community’s threats of boycotting Georgia to convince the governor to exercise his veto power. But then I remembered leaving the rally in Liberty Plaza a week earlier; even as I was aware of a certain sense of battle fatigue, my sense of mission was stronger.

It is with these stirrings of hope to make a difference that I head to the polls to vote in the Georgia primary on this Super Tuesday. It is with this steadfast belief in the process of change that I return to the Capitol on Wednesday morning to demand what is just and right for all citizens of Georgia.

Once more, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues. With an eye toward the long arc of the universe, I will bend my mouth into a wide smile, confident that we are making a difference not by staying home but by showing up.

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.  (Theodore Parker in “Of Justice and Conscience,” 1853)

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