On January 20th, I had never marched for anything.
Actually, though, that’s not quite true. I had never marched for anything on purpose. You know that experience you see in movies about the suffragettes or the civil rights movements where you all show up, make your ideas tangible, and hope the world shows up with you? I had never felt that. In my first week of college I stumbled upon an Occupy march and joined in, flushed with an intoxicating blend of complete ignorance and blind enthusiasm. I remember being unsure of exactly what we were protesting, but I was beyond thrilled at the novelty of being part of something. To this day, I cringe a little bit thinking about it. Beyond those few chaotic hours, I’ve never marched for anything. So when I found myself scrolling through flights from Boston to D.C. with my best friend to attend the Women’s March on Washington, I was caught between pulls of conviction and uncertainty.
I’m not really the type of person who marches. I’m not a marcher. I associate marches with hemp sweaters and Birkenstocks and a whole lot of angry yelling, none of which are truly my speed. Instead, I considered myself a practical advocate - a strong feminist, not a post-on-Facebook gal. A calm discussion person, not a yell-across-the-table-at-Thanksgiving person. To be honest, I tended to roll my eyes at the political statuses that peppered social media around the election. So while I clicked between Kayak and Skyscanner, searching for cheap flights to D.C., a frenzy of questions blurred my vision -
What happens at a march?
Will there be singing?
Will there be shouting?
Will there be snacks?
Am I supposed to make a sign?
The more the questions built up, the less and less qualified I felt for the task at hand.
I began to wonder whether or not this was a good idea. Maybe, I thought, I should leave the marching to the pros.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.” The people of God is called to be a single body, one contained unit with one miraculous goal which contains hundreds of unique body parts. Only the hands can do what the hands can do. Only the kidney can do what the kidney can do. If the lungs decided to do what the kidney is meant for, we start to have problems. The body no longer performs its function and all of the parts find themselves in deep disrepair.
God does not call us to fit into the expectations of others. We aren’t meant to deny our identities as uniquely constructed children of God for any lesser pursuit. We are meant to become a working, functioning, serving part of the larger body - serving the way we can, the way that brings us joy. We are a community based on giving our unique resources joyfully for the sake of a common goal - practicing and sharing the love of Christ. We serve with music and art and writing and hospitality and enterprise and design and construction and speaking and, sometimes, by just showing up. We serve in dramatically individual ways to create the radically collaborative community God has designed for us.
Just as we are called to participate in Christ’s church in this way, we are called to participate in the movements that stir our hearts. This is how I ended up with a ticket to D.C. This is how I ended up at a march with 500,000 other people. The day before, I spent hours with my best friend designing hand-lettered postcards to give away. My best friend is a photographer and we spent the entire day talking to women from all around the world, photographing them, learning about their lives, encouraging them, and giving them pre-stamped postcards to send to their senators, congresspeople, or women who inspire them. And at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like a fraud. I didn’t feel underqualified. I didn’t feel like a first-week-of-college student hopping on a bandwagon. Instead, I was drenched with enthusiasm. I had participated, wholly and honestly, in something larger than myself. I brought what I could, and I left exhausted and renewed.
We don’t need to look a certain way or be a certain way to participate in world changing.
The movements of this world need people, messy and entirely unique. We need photographers and musicians and sign makers and the people who bring snacks and the people who show up early and the people who stay late. We need the woman who greeted us outside the Methodist church on Pennsylvania Avenue, welcoming us in with the promise of sandwiches and a bathroom. We need the woman in the train station early in the morning with water bottles and granola bars. The world demands the type of community Christ calls us to - huge, vibrant, and deeply interconnected. Showing up right where you are to serve demonstrates Christ’s community on the streets where we live. God calls us to individuality in pursuit of unity - in movements, in the church, and in marches.
Madeline Heising walked out on her career in culinary TV production to pursue the self-employed dream. She currently works in Boston, MA as a portrait photographer, and is the force behind the local creative ventures Joy Street and Co and Cold Coffee Studios. When she's not organizing her Google Calendar, she likes to sleep.