'The Power of One': Interview with Susan Sarandon

The star says imagination and empathy are what make her an actor--and an activist.

BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen

 

Best known as the star of movies like "Bull Durham" and "Thelma and Louise," Susan Sarandon also plays a major role as an activist. From her 1993 Oscar-night plea to help AIDS sufferers in Haiti to her current advocacy for the homeless, Sarandon has kept humanitarian causes in the spotlight. She spoke with Beliefnet recently about her spiritual path, her work with Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and what she hopes for her children.

Read Beliefnet's complete interview and listen to audio excerpts below.

  • "I want my kids to understand the joy of service"
  • "Jesus' hands-on spirituality"
  • "Religion is not black and white"
  • "If you see someone in a box..."
  • "The dilemma of homelessness"
  • "The power of one"
  • "When you don't have hope"

    How would you describe your spiritual path? Do you identify with a particular one, or it is mainly the activism you're involved in that fulfills you?

    I try to live my life every day in the present, and try not to turn a blind eye to injustice and need. I wish I did more. I feel my family's needs are a priority. I'm not comfortable with the idea of serving the many and ignoring my family. In the bigger picture, I see myself getting more and more involved as they leave the nest and don't need the daily attention.

    Which ethical and spiritual lessons do you most want your children to learn?

    "I want them to understand... the joy of service"
    I want them to respect the divine in everyone. And understand that with privilege comes responsibility. Everyone has a responsibility towards this larger family of man, but especially if you're privileged, that increases your responsibility. I want them to understand the joy of empowerment, of service. I want them to understand that doing the right thing is a joyful experience, that it isn't a grind.

    So volunteering--like your work in soup kitchens--has never been a grind for you?

    Not at all.

    We have a tradition in our house. I was always envious of bar mitzvahs and people having really defined rites of passage and being able to mark that with some kind of community service. My kids were not particularly ready at thirteen, so we do it at sixteen. My daughter wanted to do something with kids, and she found a shelter and she and her friends and myself and our friends spent a few days and did over a huge room at a shelter.

    Yes, and to have something to mark her passage into womanhood that was positive and creative and that she figured out herself.

    To celebrate her coming of age?

     

    [A] group I work with that's really fabulous is Habitat for Humanity. This year my son Jack was turning sixteen. We had about 22 people, half were kids and half of them adults, friends of mine who have known him forever.

    Everybody showed up at 8:30 in the morning and we put in all the drywall of a four-story brownstone in Harlem, working with people that knew what they were doing more than we did, obviously.

  • Continued on page 2: »

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    Related Topics: Love Family, Charity Service

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