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Reflections on a year of service and the path toward justice

By Eliza McDermott
July 31, 2013: I had the privilege to spend this past year as a staff member of the Public Justice Center through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. LVC gives participants the opportunity to live out values of simplicity, spirituality, and social justice by placing them full time in organizations working to build a more egalitarian society. As a staff member, I served as the Administrative and Development Assistant, and had the opportunity to engage in all the behind the scenes work of the PJC. 
As the Administrative and Development Assistant, the nature of my work was often clerical. I fielded phone calls from potential clients, made legal services referrals, sent official mail, and copied promotional materials, among other tasks. Not the most scintillating work, right? Well, right. However, the work I took on during my time at PJC deeply informed my understanding of the path towards justice. 
Early in my year as a PJC staff member, I found receiving “reportable events” to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being part of the office. Reportable events are staff-wide emails sent out to alert co-workers of a recent success by a particular team. I loved that I could hear that plans for the Baltimore city youth jail had been halted or that wage lien legislation had passed in Maryland directly from the advocates who had been instrumental in making these huge changes take place. It was a privilege to be in this environment everyday, and I was willing to do whatever work the PJC had for me in order to have a front row seat to the action. 
What I didn’t realize, though, was that the work I was doing was the action too. While passing progressive legislation and court rulings that expand justice are huge causes for celebration, they are also the culmination of hundreds of much smaller acts of justice. This year, I’ve learned that not every step on the path to justice leaves you with a fire in your belly feeling, but all of your actions can be ingrained with deep value and dignity when they serve a higher purpose. Justice is sometimes mundane, because justice also lives in the day-to-day work that pieces everything together.
Going forward, the incredible work that I’ve seen accomplished this year will continue to color the ways I think about and work for social justice and systemic change. I leave this year as a Lutheran Volunteer with a heightened commitment to working for justice, and a deep gratitude to the staff of Public Justice Center for the opportunity to work alongside of them.

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