I sit here writing in a dress. You may wonder why that warrants a mention. Dresses are not my usual everyday wear but this December is different. I am participating in Dressember, an initiative that raises money for the work of International Justice Mission. This has me thinking long and hard about what freedom means.
There is no denying that all of our lives have been shaken up this year, with restrictions placed on our usual lifestyles in ways we aren’t used to dealing with in our comfortable Western world. However, I think we reveal our privileged perspective by calling these ‘restrictions on our freedom.’ The people that International Justice Mission work with are trapped in human trafficking- slaves with no ability to make decisions for their own lives. It is an obvious and confronting violation of freedom that needs action. People living in extreme poverty have so few options in front of them. They are doing all that is within their limited freedom to keep taking care of their families.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.Nelson Mandela
I have always admired the way that Nelson Mandela came through 27 years of prison with the mission of helping others and bringing true freedom to a nation, without the motivation of deep bitterness.
Time and again I take my freedom for granted. I become self-absorbed and more committed to my own comfort than the freedom of others. A position of privilege means I can choose to close my eyes to the realities faced by so many around the globe and even in this country. That isn’t who I want to be. That isn’t who I want to raise my daughter to be. What if we were all to do something to help bring freedom for someone else? What if this is truly what freedom means?
The large global issues of human trafficking and poverty are obvious but not exclusive restrictors of freedom. Lack of freedom comes in much more subtle ways too. Trauma, mental health struggles and prejudices all impact a person. It can feel like a prison and lead them to give up hope. I have walked through trauma and fought for freedom from the prisons of anxiety and depression. Maybe you have too. How can we enhance the freedoms of those around us? What freedom means for us is the capacity to reach out to others.
Ideas for using your freedom for others today:
- Donate to an organisation or cause (use your freedom of finance)
- Reach out to someone you know is struggling and really listen to them (use your freedom of how you use your time and compassion)
- Research the ethics behind your shopping decisions and choose brands that are committed to their workers (use your freedom of choice)
- Sit and play a game with your kids (use your freedom of attention)
- Consider becoming a foster carer or research ways to support foster families (use your freedom of a home, love and resources)
- Look out for how you can brighten someone’s day in some small way (use your freedom of words, resources and smiles)
This is what freedom means to me. I am aware of the privilege I have, the experience I have gained and the resources at my disposal. The choices I make in my day to day life take this privilege, experience and resources and seek to allow others the opportunities to be free.