What Are You Doing for Others?
Updated: Feb 28
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With embodies the Civil Rights Movement, depicting six-year-old African-American Ruby Bridges walking to an all-white public school in New Orleans, on November 14, 1960, amid the turbulent desegregation crisis. Violent threats made against young Ruby, called for 4 US deputy marshals to escort her to school. Today, Ruby is a Civil Rights activist.
The 36 x 58-inch oil painting is one of Rockwell’s most famous works of art, forever recognized as a staple of American history. The Problem We All Live With hangs at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It calls me to do something, to make a change, to make a difference.
In the 2013 documentary UnDivided, a suburban church united with Roosevelt High, an at-risk high school in Portland, Oregon, to create a positive, and safe learning environment for students, faculty, staff, and volunteers in the community.
I grew up in urban New York City in the 60s, and I remember all too well the fear and horror of walking to school as a 3rd grader in a gang-infused community with no protection of a father or figure of authority, bullied and harassed daily. I was raised in a broken home along with my five siblings. We were struck with a lethal blow when our father abandoned us. I was just eight years old at that time. God used the film UnDivided to bring me to the point of healing from embedded traumas I thought were resolved. How can anyone watch this film and not be moved or shaken?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In UnDivided, the narrator, Larry Anderson, talks about kids in Portland's community in 1991 who had a "poverty of the lack of intimate relationships with positive adults." Many young people in the community were without male figures of authority in the home, which is the cause of the community's demise and progressive dysfunction. This disease infests communities worldwide.
Anderson also pointed out that nobody is talking about the problem of fatherless homes anymore. "We were unprepared to deal with our kids joining gangs. They saw being in gangs as simply their family – not a criminal enterprise. . .they wanted to belong to a community."
We live in a rapidly declining culture, spiritually above any other detriment, and it all began with the family. The bankruptcy of love, nurture, faith, and family values exacerbates young boys and girls' desperation to find community and intimacy forcing them to live in a gang-based family structure, an available, open community of acceptance and what they perceive to be love. It is the decimation of the next generation.
At the time, 1 out of 7 in Roosevelt High School was homeless, left behind, or abandoned – staggering. "Couch surfing" brings home the shocking reality that kids live on the streets, hungry, unhealthy – and still go to school and struggle to learn. One of the teachers said it is challenging to teach kids or get through to them if they are hungry, couch surfing, or dealing with a devastating issue in the home or personal lives.
"Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much."
Southlake Church's intentional acts of love and kindness extended to Roosevelt High School were most inspiring. They were the hands and feet of Jesus, and they brought Him into the halls of Roosevelt, serving faithfully and lovingly. It was effective. It made changes over time and is still making changes. The change will not happen overnight, but the seeds of a new beginning of life and hope were planted in and around the campus of Roosevelt High School in Portland that day.
The Church is the answer to the problems in our culture. Jesus' love shines through the Church and His people, and we must take this love into the community. The school's combined efforts with Southlake Church and the community working together is what brought about change at Roosevelt, and I believe it can happen anywhere if we are undivided.
My takeaway from UnDivided is one word: COMMUNITY. I believe this is the problem and the solution. A community can be a vehicle of abuse or indoctrination. It can also be a source of healing and hope for broken families, relationships, and the restoration of humanity.
Ultimately, we find real community in a relationship with Christ, flowing into the lives of others.
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is,
"What are you doing for others?"
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fred Rogers was a beacon of hope who touched the hearts of millions with his inspiring “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” TV program that aired from 1968-2001. Rogers brought hope and healing to children and families dealing with loss, disabilities, and fear.
“When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
In our culture today, revolution is commonplace. Let us change that by starting a serve-olution - loving God, others, and ourselves (Luke 10:27).
I'm so tired of talking about How we are God's hands and feet But it's easier to say than to be Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves It's alright, "somebody else will do something" Well, I don't know about you But I'm sick and tired of life with no desire I don't want a flame, I want a fire and I wanna be the one who stands up and says "I'm gonna do something"
If not us, then who If not me and you Right now, it's time for us to do something,
If not now, then when Will we see an end To all this pain
It's not enough to do nothing It's time for us to do something
We are the salt of the earth We are a city on a hill We're never gonna change the world By standing still No, we won't stand still
Copyright 2021, William S. Barnett
No portion of this content can be copied, electronically stored, or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
The Problem We All Live With, Norman Rockwell, 1964
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts