From November until early December, Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) is raising awareness and funds for its Giving Tuesday campaign called JUST Communities. Today’s post talks about kindness and generosity and how these are necessary ingredients in building just communities in our world, especially in the Global South where CJI’s partners work for justice.
JUST Communities: Rooted in Kindness and Generosity
When I was a boy, my mother used to tell me the story of St. Martin of Tours. She would regale me with the tale of this kind and generous Roman soldier who cut his cloak in half one cold night and gave part of it to a beggar in need. The story really made an impression on my young self, and I imagined most people in the world were like St. Martin; he was kind, fair and determined to make society more equitable and just. However, growing up under the shadow of a ruthless dictatorship in the Philippines, I began to think St. Martin was more the exception than the rule.
As a young man, I sought to follow St. Martin’s selfless example by working with remote fishing communities in the Philippines. It was my hope that my training and expertise as a conservation professional would help struggling fisherfolk engage in more sustainable methods of fishing for the benefit of both the environment and their own communities. To my surprise, I gained far more out of that experience than the people I had intended to help.
The fishing communities welcomed me with open arms. They shared their day’s catch with me even though they probably did not have enough for themselves, and they let me stay with them in their homes since the concept of “not having enough room” was totally alien to them. Never have I experienced such extraordinary generosity especially when the people doing the giving did not have much to begin with.
I was filled with both humility and gratitude as these materially poor but “rich-in-all-other-ways-that-matter” fisherfolk taught me the true meaning of giving. It made me realize that in some parts of the world, kindness and generosity are not so uncommon after all.
I am quite fortunate that as I got older, I became more of a “the glass is half full” kind of person mainly due to the company that I keep, and the communities I found myself a part of.
As a not-so young man, I began working for the Canadian Jesuits International (CJI), and got involved in its work with poor and marginalized communities in countries of the Global South through the work of Jesuits and other partners. After a few weeks with CJI, I became certain that there were really a lot more St Martins out there.
CJI’s Giving Tuesday Campaign
This year, at CJI we have chosen “JUST Communities” as the theme for our Giving Tuesday campaign. This campaign highlights the work of our community partners in the Global South and their effort to strengthen just relations among people and with nature. These partnerships help communities resist exploitative economic systems and put people before profits.
For this year’s campaign, our goal is to raise $150,000 for three projects:
- The Jesuit Mission of Bachajón has been cultivating just communities in Chiapas, Mexico by accompanying the Tseltal-Maya community for over 60 years in their journey to autonomy and transmission of Indigenous culture to new generations.
- Jesu Ashram, a health care facility in Darjeeling, India, creates just communities by serving poor and marginalized people suffering from leprosy, tuberculosis and HIV, and honoring their dignity as human beings. They offer people facing stigma and treated as outcasts by their communities a welcoming home of love, acceptance and healing.
- The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Education Program in South Sudan provides meals and other essential items to children suffering from the effects of war and displacement in their country in a safe and just community. This project has had a positive and life changing impact on the lives of displaced youth and their families.
These three projects that are the focus of CJI’s Giving Tuesday campaign involve people, Jesuits and other partners, giving a lot of themselves to build just communities. They believe in kindness and generosity and justice, just like St. Martin of Tours.
The story of St. Martin really resonates with me because I believe it truly exemplifies the true spirit of kindness and generosity, and it is a great metaphor for how we can adequately and sustainably share the world’s resources among people and communities.
Magnanimity can change the world. As a young man, I thought I would be transforming the lives of those fishing communities in the Philippines; instead, they changed mine. True partnership means giving goes in both directions, even if we don’t realize it at first. Kindness creates connections, and sustained generosity builds communities if it is based on just relations
I invite you to be part of CJI’s JUST Communities campaign. Whether you donate, participate in one of our events across Canada, or spread the word about the work that we do, please take a moment to ponder how your act of kindness has changed you and your community.
Be kind. Be generous. Share a part of yourself with others and build JUST Communities
This article first appeared on the igNation website on October 28, 2019. It was written for CJI’s JUST Communities campaign.