Nuns on the Bus – Mending the Gaps
Editor’s note: This post was written by Richelle Friedman, CHN’s Director of Public Policy, on Thursday, July 28. Richelle spent a week with NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus, including at the Democratic National Convention last week. The full Nuns on the Bus tour lasted three weeks, including visiting the Republican National Convention the week before, to call on elected officials and candidates from all political parties to Mend the Gaps in income and wealth inequality in our nation. Learn more about Nuns on the Bus on their website, read an interview with Richelle in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and follow Richelle’s adventures via Twitter.
Our day began in the heart of Philadelphia with Mass at Old St. Joseph’s Church, the oldest church in Philadelphia, founded by Jesuits in response to restrictions on the practice of Catholicism in Maryland. The Jesuit celebrant was pleased with the shout out for the Jesuits from Tim Kaine.
Our morning downtown ‘lemonade street ministry’ is based on a great strategy – a cold drink on a hot day in exchange for a little conversation about our 7 ‘mend the gap’ issues. The locals and convention-goers dialogued with us. I spoke with a recent law school grad who was anxious about his $140,000 debt in student loans. A woman was hoping to save enough to move out of her basement apartment. Every person with whom I engaged was supportive of fixing the gaps and signed our pledge committing to work toward mending them.
We had our last issue caucus today. Everywhere participants made the connections between the inter-relationship of the issues. Lack of public transportation, for example, makes it difficult to keep a job that is a distance away. While not directly one of our issues, people at a number of our caucuses are concerned that too much money is being spent on the military. I enjoyed facilitating the healthcare discussions during the causes. In every place we were there was agreement that a single-payer system is the ideal toward which health policies should strive. It was a stark example of the disconnect between what the grassroots want and Congress is willing to enact.
Attending some of the Democratic Convention as an observer was a once in a lifetime experience. On the final night there was not an empty seat to be found. I was impressed by the issues addressed in the speeches reflecting diversity of ages, ethnicities, life styles, religions, and yes, the presence of Republican speakers. On this final night I was touched when Reverend Dr. William Barber II declared, “Some issues are right vs. wrong.” He went on to say that we are called to be ‘moral defibrillators’ to shock and resuscitate the heart of the nation. One issue that received less than enthusiastic support throughout the arena was war. Like the previous nights, there were spotty chants of “no more wars” in response to speakers like Marine General James Allen.
As someone who ministers in D.C. and on Capitol Hill, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear so many powerful stories from grassroots people living in NH, MA, RI, CT, PA and NJ. The people we met were informed and deeply appreciative that we came to be with them. Those who daily minister in shelters and transitional housing, in recovery centers and in social service agencies have my admiration and respect. They are bringing hope and life to the hearts of the people they serve as they embody the Beatitudes. The clients they work with have amazing resilience and hope as many confront obstacles each day that could cause them to despair, but they refuse to give up. My nine days on the bus has been a blessing.