Wishes From Bernice Powell Jackson

Bernice Powell Jackson will be leaving the United Church of Christ national office this month.  She shares her final message, #245, with the community.  She leaves as Executive Minister of the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries.  Here are her Christmas wishes.

WITNESS FOR JUSTICE #245
December 5, 2005
MY CHRISTMAS LIST

By Bernice Powell Jackson

        Every year for the past eleven years I have shared my own Christmas list with you.  Most years it has included a wish for even a day of peace in the world – when war ceases, when domestic violence pauses, when guns are laid down in homes and cities and nations.  It hasn’t happened yet, despite the prayers and the hard work of so many of you.  Nevertheless, I believe, that those of us who are Christian are called to work for peace by the Prince of Peace.  Those of other faiths are also called by our Creator to work for a world of peace not only at this time of year, but all year long.  So my first wish is for peace on earth.

        As I write my last Witness for Justice column, I wish for young people who are ready and willing to take up the leadership in the struggle for a world of peace with justice.  I am reminded that there has been no viable struggle for justice and peace which did not include young people in the leadership in the last century and I am sure that will be true for this century as well.  Young people were a part of the leadership in the civil rights struggle in the U.S., in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, in the people power struggle in the Philippines, even in Tiennamin Square in China.  We need young people willing to say war is not the answer, poverty is not the solution and racism can be no more and to do the difficult work of making such a world a reality.  That may mean using old tried and true methods of protest like marches and demonstrations and letter-writing, and it might include new 21st century high-tech methods of protest driven by the internet.  We need the energy and enthusiasm of young people in the work for peace and justice and my Christmas wish is that each one of us who are elders will mentor a young person to take the lead in this millennia-old struggle.

        My third wish is for health care for every American.  If there is one issue which can impact every one of us and which can be won in the next two years, I believe it is national health care.  Simply put, the health care system is imploding all around us.  Corporations large and small know it, labor unions know it, non-profit organizations know it, retirees know it, those 45 million Americans with no health care insurance know it, the medical profession knows it, and hospital administrators know it.  Even the politicians know that the health care system we now have is not working for any group in America except possibly the insurance industry, but unless we DEMAND an immediate change, however, politicians will not do anything about it until it collapses around us.  Maybe the total collapse of General Motors or maybe the influx of Asian bird flu into the U.S. with millions unable to afford treatment or maybe millions of retirees losing their promised health care benefits or millions of workers being required to pay higher and higher deductibles will be what propels the collapse of our present-day system, but my Christmas wish is that Americans demand that our nation come up with national health insurance before the system collapses–not afterwards.

        My wish is for a return of a value which seems to be disappearing from our landscape – the value of integrity.  Integrity is a value which can only be earned through a life of honesty, fairness, forthrightness and a commitment to the common good of all humankind.  It is a value which seems to be sorely lacking in government, in politics, in media, in business, even in religion.  Integrity means standing up for what is right and just and true, no matter which way the winds of the world blow.  It means speaking truth, not words of political spin.  It means looking out not just for oneself, but for the whole community, especially those who are powerless and can’t stand up for themselves.  It means being willing to admit mistakes and to ask for forgiveness, knowing that we are all human and fallible.  It means matching your words with your life.  My Christmas wish is for an increase in integrity in our world.          

        My Christmas wish list this year is for health and wellness for every reader, for laughter and joy, for strength and comfort in the days ahead.  In the words of the great American writer, Maya Angelou, “I wouldn’t take nothing for the journey”.   

        The struggle continues!!!

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