Repeat after me: 16, 23, 24.
16, 23, 24.
You may not believe me, but these are really important numbers this month.
No, they are not this month’s Lucky Lotto numbers.
And they are not the combination to a safe containing a treasure trove of bejeweled goodies somewhere.
But I promise they are the key to something equally precious.
These numbers -- 16, 23, 24 -- are dates. Terribly important dates.
On November 23, the Congressional Super Committee appointed to reduce the national deficit must decide where to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.
Many of their proposed cuts the Super Committee is contemplating strike fear in my soul -- a visceral forboding of injustice.
That's because the proposed billion-dollar cuts will affect after school tutoring programs, job training for unemployed adults, Head Start and child care programs, energy grants that help low-income families afford heat and many other programs that benefit the least of those among us.
My fears are heightened further when I realize that the future of young people and resources that families need aren’t being protected. Instead, lawmakers seem to be most concerned about protecting billions of dollars in subsidies for businesses, foreign profits, tax cuts for only the wealthiest 2 percent of our citizens.
I dread the decisions that these appointed officials will make November 23 to cut the budget on the backs of the poor, the vulnerable and the needy.
It is for this reason that many organizers, parents, students, community leaders and people of faith will assemble across the nation at noon (in every time zone) on November 16 to form human circles of protection around the buildings of organizations and agencies that have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and are in jeopardy of losing essential funding from the federal government.
In New York City, folks will form a human circle outside Friendly Hands Ministries, a non-profit that serves the East Harlem community and runs a feeding program as well as providing direct services in the neighborhood. If the budget cuts deepen, Friendly Hands Ministries’ capacity to reach out will be severely hampered, and families in East Harlem will suffer for it.
In Chicago, a human circle will be forming on the city's North Side after chapel at North Park University. Students at the Christian college will encircle the North Park Friendship Center, a food pantry that serves some 2,000 people each month. Many of the North Park Friendship Center's clients are refugees who have recently immigrated to the United States. Several hundred students are expected to participate in the circle. The students also will be bringing a can of food to chapel with them to donate to the Friendship Center.
In Orange County, California, parents, community leaders and others will form a circle around the Santa Ana Unified School District. Many of the Santa Ana schools are Title 1 schools and are at the risk of receiving some of the harshest funding cuts.
These human circles give me great hope. When people come together for a cause they believe in -- especially one that so clearly reflects Matthew 25 biblical values -- change is possible.
Hope is possible.
These human circles of protection give me hope that, when November 24 arrives, we all will be thankful for the hands that joined together in order to take a stand for their community, for justice and for hope.
For more information on joining a circle, click HERE.
Karla T. Vasquez is a mobilizing assistant for Sojourners.