Years ago I was at a sales seminar with ten thousand other women. Cosmetic queen, Mary Kay Ash had just established her charitable foundation raising awareness and funding for cancers affecting women and resources for women coming out of domestic violence. She told us to look at the woman on our left and then look at the woman on our right. She then said, “One of the three of you will get breast cancer.”
I will never forget the impact of that statement. I knew the woman on my right and the woman on my left. The thought that one of us would contract breast cancer brought a statistic to reality. And it held true. Eight years later the woman on my right was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer.
One in three jumped out at me again when I was on the Planned Parenthood website to schedule my appointment. One in three women will have an abortion by age 45. I know a lot of women who have had abortions. I wonder how many of them realize that so many of their sisters have also had abortions? How different would the conversation be about this issue if women spoke up, like they have with breast cancer and ovarian cancer?
Here’s the thing: one in three is a really common occurrence.
- One in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese.
- One in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse.
- One in three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime.
- One in three black men will go to prison in their lifetime.
- One in three older adults (65 years and older) will fall.
- Tobacco is responsible for one in three deaths worldwide.
- One in three Americans are poor.
- One in three young adults will be arrested by age 23.
And I could go on and on!
Not only are these issues much more common than we think, someone you know is impacted and you don’t even know who that might be.
This brings some interesting thoughts immediately to mind:
- The likelihood of me having an opinion on a social issue that affects one in three is very high. Do I spout off my opinions on a subject without thinking of the other person and what I do not know about them?
- Am I willing to acknowledge something for the common good even though I might have a differing personal opinion?
- How does my faith inform how I think about these social issues?
I learned early on in my ministry that I must always remember that behind every issue was at least one person who was personally affected. I might be talking about our outreach programs to “the least of these,” knowing at least one person in my congregation was also a “least of these” of which I was speaking. And everyone, regardless of their circumstances was deserving of dignity and respect as a member of our collective human family.
I know several people in each of the one in three groups above. I am very dismayed by the tone and thoughtlessness of the conversations in religious circles regarding marriage equality, immigration, health care, voting rights, and economic disparity to name a few.
By being mindful the one in three, we are considering the common good for all of us. The idea of the common good predates Jesus, was espoused by Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, and is part of the bedrook of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
As Jesus warned, have we “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy. … You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24) Stay tuned! Or better yet, what do you think?