It has stopped surprising me how deeply that question is written into the ordinary rhythms of life. It is rare to read the front page of a newspaper, or scroll down the screen of an online news source, or have a conversation with anyone about anything, without bumping into our very human expectation that expects an integral relationship between knowing and doing.
What did he know when? If she knew that, why didn’t she do something? Since they knew about it, why on earth did they allow it to happen? And on and on and on. Sometimes we are simply, if grievously, outraged. Sometimes we want the legal system to step in. And other times we groan deeply at history, seeing more clearly than our forebears must have, imagining ourselves more just, more merciful, than those who have gone before us.
I thought of all this again a few days ago, stepping into the world of the Blood:Water Mission in Nashville, TN, a place and a people that I know well. Born of hopes in the hearts of a few, it has grow into a vision that has captured the imaginations and energies of thousands of people all over the world, but especially in America and Africa.
Created to address the complex needs for clean blood and clean water in Africa, arising from the HIV/AIDS crisis, it has become a serious organization with serious people giving the years of their lives to do the work that is required– if a corner is to be torn off of the darkness of the problem that affects millions of people. There are no great hallelujahs yet, as there is still much work to be done, but it is also true that a lot of very good work has been done in the last ten years. Over a thousand villages and over a million people have access to clean water, and medical services have been provided for many people in many countries.
Because I was asking this question years ago, about the connection between knowing and doing, I was drawn into the birth pangs of Blood:Water. And over the years since then, I have continued to be part of its life, traveling to Nashville often and even to Africa, understanding more of the complexity of the question and its answer.
On Wednesday I spent the day with the staff, who are reading the Visions of Vocation, and we took up the question, “Now that we know, what are we going to do?” I did my best to explain why the question matters, and how it was written into the first questions that the Jars of Clay were asking, years ago, and the way that Jena Lee Nardella came into the story early on, bringing her passions to bear on making this vision a reality.
Knowing there is a need is one thing; choosing to respond is another. Most of the time for most of us, there is a disconnect. We know, but do not do. When something else happens, when by grace we find our way into a knowing that is doing, understanding that we are responsible for our knowledge— that in fact responsibility is written into the very meaning of knowledge —then the angels sing, and good work is done. But in this very now-but-not-yet world, not all good work is done.
The Blood:Water Mission draws visionary people, full of hopes and dreams about the way the world ought to be— so of course we ended the day talking about making peace with the proximate, with the importance of something, even if it is not everything, because it is not nothing. To keep on keeping on is the hardest of all, because the weight of the world, the flesh and the devil conspire against us in thousands of insidious ways. Lord, have mercy… and keep us at it.
(Photo from the Blood:Water Mission office.)