Recently the Western Region held their annual Regional meeting in San Diego. The focus of one of the sessions was on the "Rule", more specifically Rule 7, "Relationship with Civil Society - Work for Social Justice"
As members of the Society we give immediate assistance to those we have the privilege to serve in the form of food, rent and utility assistance, beds for the children. But, that is only the minimum of this wonderful ministry, the Right Foot of Love in Action. Without the Left Foot, advocacy in the form of Voice of the Poor, we find ourselves going in circles. The Left Foot of Love in Action allows us to go in a specific direction of finding mid and long term solutions to the problems that affect those we serve. Problems in the form of legislative action that work against those same individuals. Payday lending laws that put an untold burden with high interest rates on those that need just a little, to fix a car in order to get to their jobs. Bus routes that are eliminated, stranding people without any other form of transportation.
We envision a civilization of love, "a more just society in which the rights, responsibilities and development of all people are promoted."
As Vincentian, we oppose discrimination of any kind and we work to change the attitudes of those who view the weak or different with prejudice. The Society strives, with charity to foster new attitudes of respect and empathy for the weak, so all are able to understand, recognize and defend the rights of each person to be responsible for his or her own life. Systemic Change requires a change in our attitudes, allowing those in poverty to take the initiative necessary to change their circumstances. For us Vincentians it means stepping back, allowing those in poverty to try on their own, to act as advisors.
Fredric Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, taught us that: "Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveler who has been attacked. It is Justice's role to prevent the attacks."