Justice network

A long time ago I had the privilege of commanding the Air Force ceremonial unit in Washington, DC, meaning I was responsible for the Air Force Band and Honor Guard. I met with every newly-assigned person and told them I was there for them. If they had a problem, I asked them to first go to their chain of command, but if that failed, “my door was always open.”

In the 90’s the military still faced challenges in integrating women into certain career fields, and the Honor Guard was one of those. Being a ceremonial guardsman was physically demanding work. There was a minimum height requirement. Many Honor Guard members had come from the security forces and had played football in high school. Young women recruited for this duty not only had to meet the physical demands but had to overcome the cultural barriers of an elite fraternity.

One day “Ann” appeared at my door. She was an airman, a one-striper, recruited by the Honor Guard out of basic training. She’d given up the career field that she had signed up for when she enlisted to become a ceremonial guardsman. She’d been well suited for her original career field, but had not been able to meet the physical challenges of the Honor Guard.

Ann could go back to her original career choice, right? Well, no. The chain of command had concluded that Ann had an attitude problem and had left her to the tender mercies of the assignment system.

This was one of those moments when I really enjoyed being a bird colonel. I helped get her an even better assignment than the one she’d enlisted for. Then I had a talk with her chain of command.

Jesus was at a party where he noticed the guests jockeying for the position of honor. In that culture, as in ours today, knowing the right person made a huge difference in whether you made it in the world or not. If you were a nobody–poor, outcast, unattractive–you were in trouble. Like today, the poor are poor partly because they have no access to the social networks the rest of us take for granted.

Jesus expected people to open up their social and business networks to the poor and outsiders. To him, it was a matter of doing justice.

I’m pretty sure God loves it when people make things right for folks like Ann.  I know I did.

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