Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31: 8-9
In these troubled times, my mind often goes back to Margaret Keller, the founder of Dorcas Ministries. In 1968 she pioneered diversity and care for marginalized people in our community. In case you don’t know the story, in 1968 Margaret Keller convinced a group of her friends to help her address a glaring problem of inequality in our community. Back then, North Carolina did not have free preschools, so unless you could afford to pay, your child did not get the benefit of early education. North Carolina was much different than it is now. Racial lines were more strictly drawn, and blurring those lines could be downright dangerous. Imagine Margaret’s audacity and bravery to reach across racial lines to bring benefits to many poor and minority children. In doing so, she started a ministry that now blesses tens of thousands of people with food, financial assistance, and training.
I think of Mrs. Keller because I wonder what she would do in this pivotal hour. Would she be quiet? Would she be marching with the protesters? Her bravery should challenge all of us. The protests in response to the killing of George Floyd have served as a catalyst for change and shed renewed light on systemic problems in our criminal justice system. These problems, along with others, should spur all of us to speak out and do something about barriers to achieving social and economic equality for all Americans. I think that is what Margaret Keller would be doing at this time.
Many have asked me, “What can I do?” That is a hard question that I’m not fully qualified to answer. I would, however, recommend that we first pray. We simply need God’s help in this hour. Our nation faces many challenges – while in the middle of a pandemic! Along with prayer, though, we should all take action in some way. If you don’t know anything about the problems in the criminal justice system, educate yourself. From there, encourage conversations about the subject in the organizations you belong to, your church, your family, etc. Beyond that, get involved in advocating for change. Express your desire to ensure fair policing and sentencing to your local government and police department, elected officials, governor, and be willing to serve on boards and commissions if you are asked. Finally, realize that making a difference takes a lot of hard work. You may be put into some uncomfortable situations; you may have some pretty difficult conversations. I’m sure Margaret Keller had her share. But I’m so glad she hung in there. And because of her tenacity, so many people still benefit.
It is my hope that Mr. Floyd didn’t die in vain. I pray his death will spark a lasting change that will help make our nation a better one for all of us. I close with an ancient, but very powerful prayer.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Howard Manning Rose Cornelious
Executive Director Development Director