First of all, we go where the jobs are.
We’re Caroline Center. Committed to women. Committed to work.
From “What It Takes“
We’re talking a lot about work these days in Baltimore. Work is what we need to quell the unrest, to stop the violence, to heal the gaping wounds in our struggling neighborhoods. Work would promote stability. Work would add meaning to hopeless-feeling lives and give order to chaos. Work would begin to repair the places where Baltimore is hurting and broken.
The need for work in Baltimore is overwhelming. The necessity of work is immediate and urgent. When one activist in West Baltimore says, “The best cure for crime and violence is a job,” you can feel the entire city listening. And, when a spokesperson in the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development says, “People need training and jobs now. We have the pedal to the metal,” all of us can hear the unwavering resolve.
Yes. Work matters. But, do we fully understand why?
Next week, on September 23, 2015, Pope Francis will begin his historic visit to the U.S. by spending some time with President Obama at the White House. There’s no doubt they will talk about the big picture stuff: How we can work together to begin to achieve wholeness and peace in a fractured world. How we can refocus our energy and efforts toward healing the world and restoring human dignity. How we can adjust our social priorities to better match our human roles – as caretakers of creation with the vocation to work.
When Pope Francis and President Obama get down to the particulars, there’s sure to be some talk of work and why it matters because, as we well know, (and you will forgive the expression) ‘the devil is in the details.’ Hopefully, President Obama will have spent time either with the Pope’s Laudato Si’ or Caroline Center’s What It Takes – both contain amazing wisdom on the subject of work.
In Laudato Si’, work is seen as essential because it repudiates isolationism and marginalization. Work places us, as human beings, in important relation to what is other than ourselves; and, since being human means knowing how to live in relation to all that is other in the world, work is necessary to life. Another gem from Laudato Si’ suggests that replacing “human work” with “technological progress” should not be our goal as it is not truly “progress” at all, and it diminishes and is “detrimental to [our] humanity.” “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” (Laudato Si’ #128) Work matters because it is woven into the fabric of what it means to be completely human and alive.
Caroline Center has protected employment in Baltimore for going on 20 years now and has contributed in important ways to the human enterprise by preparing women for careers with the opportunity for advancement. We know the wisdom of Laudato Si’ on the subject of work because we see its truths reflected in the women we educate and also in their families. Hopeless-feeling lives are transformed. Life begins to have meaning, direction, and a plan. Old hurts and deep wounds begin to heal.
We do this work because we know that Baltimore would gain so much more from meaningful work for all of its citizens than the obvious benefits.
On my way to Caroline Center this morning, as I was encountering the usual array of un-repaired potholes along Greenmount Avenue, I was thinking about what it would take to repair and restore our city’s human infrastructure. The answer, at least in my mind, was simpler than we have been willing to admit. All it takes is deciding to reinvest in what turns out to be our deepest, most elemental human purpose – work.
Image of President Barack Obama & Pope Francis/courtesy of Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Image of young man on blue building/courtesy of Nether/Baltimore-born, local and international street artist