I first met Jan many moons ago. She was a cohort in many misadventures in the world of social justice. She was born in a family of privilege. But she would not be privileged with good health. She would become legally blind at an early age. Though this would be a hardship for her the blindness may have been her salvation. She remarked that at an early age, even though she grew up in the South in the Jim Crow era, she knew racism was wrong. Her own suffering made her more understanding about the suffering of others. The fight against racism would be the passion of her life.
When she was a teenager medical science developed the technology to give her sight. Because of her privilege she could avail herself of this new program and once again she could see. She was able to drive and have a career as a nurse and educator in the prevention of diabetes. She married a government lawyer and life was good. And although the good life continued for her, she continued to advocate for a better life for all. She would hold a reception for a recently married gay couple many years before gay marriage became legal or even popular. She worked with various groups through her church and community to help advocate for civil rights for all.
But then her sight failed once again. She was no longer able to drive or be as independent as she had become accustomed to. This almost broke her spirit. She became pessimistic, even needy for a while. Her words always had a tinge of self-pity and ongoing complaint to them. She was angry at the universe. She was scared how dependent she became on her husband. She would up, to this day, chase sight. She would have surgery and rejection of the cornea implants and surgery again in an endless cycle. The cycle would improve her sight but she would always be legally blind.
Yet through this personal turmoil she never gave up her advocacy. She was chair of her Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee, she participated in the Interracial Interfaith Community, she was on the board of Parent University that worked with poor parents to be better advocates for their children in the school system, she helped to start a Unitarian Universalists church that was social justice oriented, she belonged to a neighborhood community group in a predominately black neighborhood, she helped start a non-profit group called Joined In Giving. She was everywhere one could hope a social justice advocate could be.
She was always present bringing her attitude: sometimes caustic, sometimes plaintive, and sometimes pessimistic. But she became inspirational that even in her great personal loss and physical difficulties she was always pushing for a better world. She refused to slow down on her quest. She knew she would never in full see it. But maybe what she could not see was that she was continuously surrounded by those who she advocated for and a semblance of groups and communities that were living out the world she wanted. Her life was emblematic of the perseverance of the movement toward a just world. Her life was full of disappointments, anger, pain, but also a deep seated need for the beloved community.
Aging stops for no one so she has slowed a few steps but she can still be seen most weeks in a meeting giving her money, offering her opinions, and forever chasing a glimpse of the world a child once dreamed of.