by Ben White, pastor of Circle of Hope in South Jersey
It’s kind of electric to work together to do good with South Jersey Mutual Aid in Pennsauken on Saturday mornings. It’s like a buzz of activity and such good vibes. This Compassion Team formed in response to the Covid-19 crisis last April. How would folks losing income eat? How would those who depended on bus rides and rides from friends to go to the grocery store or the food bank keep socially distant? How would the existing social services keep up with the increase in demand?
We couldn’t answer all these questions and we haven’t even really tried, but we have delivered more than a thousand boxes of food to our neighbors who needed it. This is one of the things that has kept my Jesus-centered hope alive during this rough year.
We organized with the wider South Jersey Mutual Aid Network to offer solidarity not charity. We say that food insecurity is not a just matter of individual scarcity; it is a matter of unbalanced distribution of food abundance. And that is a community problem, not just an individual problem. I say to all the people in our network who I call back from our Google voicemail box, “Somos vecinos!” (we are neighbors!)
The more mutuality, the better, but it is hard to move against the current of other stories about what is good like “self-reliance,” “individual responsibility,” “the private pursuit of happiness.” I’m not saying those things are not good in and of themselves, but they are too loud in my context; they are drowning out alternatives—alternatives which are badly needed in our delivery area, Pennsauken and Camden, NJ. But…on Saturday mornings I’m hearing something else at 3800 Marlton Pike in Pennsauken NJ.