I had an opportunity to recently connect with one of the most cool folks in my life, Chris Matthias. Chris is one of those folks who still battles windmills, instills confidence in whomever he meets and ultimately he is out there trying to make a difference. After hanging out and again seeing his passion to make the world a better place, I thought it was important to share with y’all what he does and hopefully provide you access to a new channel for making a difference you might not have been aware of.
Chris was kind enough to spend the time to work with me and get an interview in place so you can hear in his own voice why it is important to contribute and generally do good things when and where you can.
Q: What is the organization you work for?
I work for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a congregation of Roman Catholic Sisters who abide in my home town of Adrian, Michigan.
Q: What are the key themes y’all are working for?
Key themes? The office that I work for is called Global Mission, Justice and Peace. Everything that we do is rooted in the vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, which is a crossroads of Catholic Social Teaching, the Dominican Charism, and the issues that the sisters are most actively engaged in. We have what we call corporate stances. These are positions that we have taken on certain issues, which become a mandate for my day to day work. Things like the Death Penalty, Nuclear Weapons, and the War in Iraq. We’re against all three by the way.
Q: Peace and Justice, really – how does one get a career in that?
I’ve had a long relationship with the Adrian Dominicans. I attended one of their sponsored institutions for college, Siena Heights University. As a student, I took a great interest in any action that was happening in the peace and justice arena. In my senior year, I did an internship in the office in which I now work and the sisters and I developed a great rapport.
After that I moved to Boston, once I graduated and continued to work for organizations in the non-profit sector, or human services. I returned home for a short time, and just before I was going to leave again their was a want add for the office where I’d interned! Needless to say, I didn’t get on the train.
Q: Where has peace and justice taken you?
Hmmm. Well, I suppose there are several ways to answer that one. First the concrete….
My work in peace and justice has taken me to a lot of demonstrations. Of course in Adrian, but also to demonstrations in Washington DC as well as Fort Benning Georgia to work on closing the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. But it isn’t all demonstrating. There is a lot of coalition building and colaborating with different groups. For example this summer I went to Philidelphia for the Convention for the Common Good, where progressive Catholics gathered to create discuss which issues they were most dedicated to raising during and beyond the election season.
I’ve also gone and did some modest travel – I went to the UN in New York to learn about what the Dominican Family does as an NGO which was a great opportunity. I also did some international work in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
In the more abstract, my work in peace and justice has taken me deeper into community with the people in my life, both familiar and unfamiliar. I know that sounds a little strange, but this is what I mean: when one’s work is focusing on injustice and inequity, we are forced to take a pretty serious dose of self examination, to make sure that we are challenging ourselves to be more just and more equitable in how we interact with our families, significant others, neighbors, our food supply, the people who produce the goods that we buy, how we spend money, what we consume, what we speak.
Q: Dude, are you a trustafarian or something? How can you make it all work?
Far from it. That would certainly make things much easier. The way that I approach it is to live within my means. Which I get right about 85 percent of the time. I think that there is a big trade off when it comes to money. Some of my friends make a lot more money than I do, but what they do to get it is nothing that they believe in. But they get a sizable paycheck and that’s the reward. They eat at nicer restaurants than I do, they wear more expensive shoes, and can take more elaborate vacations.
Don’t get me wrong, I envy that sometimes. But most of the time it’s very easy to just be happy. The poor have their own wealth–each other. When I lay down at night I fall right to sleep. Living in right relationships = a good life.
Q: How can folks help?
Every issue is a justice issue, and no one can handle them all. One of the things that is continuously referenced in my work circles is an interconnectedness of the issues. Human Trafficking might seem worlds away from making a choice not to but a Hummer (If that’s an option for you) but they both have to do with exercising privilege at the expense of others. So I say that the first step is start where you are.
What are problems facing your community? Go to a meeting, set up an action. You don’t have to have a Live Earth concert to do some good…Do a park clean up. Buy your food at the farmers’ market, turn off the TV and go outside. Play card games instead of video games. The way I see things, peace and justice are about healthy connecting. Injustice is a result of isolation, and selfishness. By starting small, there is a much better chance that you can stick to it, and then get into the bigger issues.
Q: I hear all that, but if there was just 1 thing everyone should do if they can’t actively travel or don’t have the cash to donate, what would that be?
Compost. I know that doesn’t seem like it’s going to save the world from AIDS, nuclear war, or global warming, however, it does mean that we actively recognize that this is a closed system we’re living in here. Recognize your part in it, and do well by it. Life will sprout up from it.
Q:How can they follow up with you and your organization?
Visit our website @ www.adriandominicans.org or check out my blog, The Happy Activist. I don’t have that many readers right now, so if I get a few, maybe I’ll be held more accountable to write more.
I clearly couldn’t have put it as well as he did, thanks for doing this Chris! I’m definitely thankful for the effort he puts in day in and day out, so give him a read or check out what local organizations you may be able to participate in.