I spent the summer working at a day camp for elementary aged children. People who know I work with preschoolers assume this must have been easy for me. It wasn’t. There’s a big difference between a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, and while the former can solve just about any conflict with a hug, the latter can hold a petty grudge for a week. Or a month. Or a summer.
Sometimes that building felt like a war zone, grenades of hateful words being thrown back and forth. Girl to boy, boy to girl. Then the division would start in their own camps. Sometimes the ultimate bomb went off and left just about everyone in tears. And this whole time I was trying to keep the peace, often working to interfere before any major catastrophes could happen. It was exhausting.
One day I was standing on the sidelines of a kickball game, offering my services as referee. As I declared one of the boys “safe,” his competition turned on me and spewed, “It’s no fair. You’re on the boys side!”
My co-worker (who, by the way, was on the boy’s side) rushed to my defense with the dramatic exclamation, “She’s on the side of justice!”
I laughed at his antics then, but six months later, that’s a phrase that sticks with me.
“She’s on the side of justice.”
I don’t know about you, but the word “justice” often turns my mind to things like sex-trafficking and child slavery and all number of other atrocities taking place in the world. People who are “on the side of justice” are people who fight for the end of these horrors. But while I certainly don’t agree with any of those things, I don’t take an active role in vanquishing them either. So am I really on the side of justice?
Yes, I am. Because justice is so much more than abolishing slavery and taking a wrecking ball to the red light districts of the world.
Justice is, quite simply, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.
Justice is admitting that the little guy did make it to first base when an entire team of girls is saying he’s out.
Justice is saying you can’t lock a kid out of the girl’s room for the sole crime of being younger than you.
Justice is evenly distributing the beanbags when the older girls want to sit on a mountain of them.
Justice is the little things.
And justice is hard.
Because it’s so much easier not to argue. It’s so much easier to let the masses rule and to find a new niche for the child who is bullied. But it’s not right. It’s not just.
So I hope it can always be said of me that I’m on the side of justice. I hope I’ll always be the one raising my voice and righting the wrongs.
Because the world needs a few more people on the Justice Side. And we’ve got to burst into it Red-Rover style. We’ve got to hold firm and catch people in the net of it until they get all wrapped up in Justice’s arms.
Won’t you come over? Won’t you come over and join the Side of Justice today?