In reaction to the sad news littering the paper every day (yes, I still get the paper), I’m tempted to personally adopt the isolationist policies America held during the 20s and 30s sometimes. Put my fingers in my ears and “la la la” against the injustices occurring all over the Middle East, Africa, even my own nation. It’s an attractive option in my selfish, self-preservation moments. But then I remember that I care. I should care. As a human, a woman, a mother, a daughter. It should matter to me if women and children are sex-trafficked. Or if an entire group of people are massacred because of their religious views, or if someone is assumed guilty because of his skin color and shot on site. That’s the “righteous anger” Jesus talked about. The question is, what do I do about it? Beyond having opinions, and even expressing them. Beyond being outraged while eating popcorn and watching a movie.
I’ve lived on both ends of the hopeless spectrum – deciding there’s nothing I can do so why worry, to deciding there’s nothing I can do and feeling distraught. But neither, by definition, does any good. I’ve also tried to make a difference, but in such small ways it has seemed pointless. Giving money toward a good cause, teaching my kids that hating differences in others is not only mean but illogical, even marching in a parade. But my money is a drop in the bucket of need, my kids are only three people in the world and don’t even have kindness-to-siblings down, and I don’t know if the parade changed anyone’s mind. My efforts seem so tiny against the sheer volume of ick happening in the world. It can be overwhelming.
But it comes down to this: my efforts are something. And that’s all I can do. It’s not a novel idea, but worth repeating (to myself daily): if everyone did nothing it would all be worse. My something, plus another person’s something, plus another’s equals change sometimes.
I’ve been reading Love Does by Bob Goff, and it has inspired me to think much bigger than I typically do in my attempts to love the world, with actions rather than thoughts alone. Bob (he’d definitely want me to call him Bob) has his finger on the pulse of the joy to be found in loving the world well. With whimsy, open hands, and full engagement. Strategic actions that cause change, even if in the life of just one person. His accounts in the book cover acts of kindness and sweet mischief toward a single high-schooler, an elderly woman, a young man in love, his own kids, and hundreds of orphaned and wrongly-accused children in Uganda. He demonstrates how the same outlook on the world’s ills – focusing on the actions we can take, with hope – can effect both meager and huge transformation, each important. Our actions matter. Let me be clear – his main message is not to change the world. It’s that love is an action. A verb. And I’ve decided to apply that to my worry over the problems I hear on NPR each morning. Love doesn’t take the isolationist approach that I’m tempted to adopt. It moves. Looks for opportunities and joyfully pounces.
As I’m finding is true with most things, my responsibility in regards to the world’s problems is not that complicated. I see a need, I do something. Even if it’s small. I can’t give money to everything, I can’t make dinner for every person who just had a baby, I can’t fly to India with Bob and extract trafficked children from their overlords. But I can do a little. And I can do it with whimsy, with strategy, and with open hands. I can continue to teach my kids compassion and patience and respect. And pray that it sticks. This way of thinking about doing love gets me excited. My something is something. And I can live with that.