“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
[ Nelson Mandela ]
Today South Africa and the world pause to observe Nelson Mandela Day, a day to remember a man who, even in death continues to speak truth to the citizens of the world at a time when we need to hear it more than we have perhaps in a very long time.
This week has been a tough one, one of the toughest in awhile. Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Libya, kidnapped and terrorized school children in Nigeria, ebola outbreaks, planes being shot down from the sky, and the list could go on. At home and abroad, innocent victims caught in the crossfire of other people’s battles; people choosing to hate instead of love. Indeed, the world seems to have reached a disturbingly new level of suckage.
If your heart is broken over these things to the point of hardly being able to bear it, believe me, I understand. My heart breaks, too, and sometimes I think it would be easier to just walk away and forget I know anything of it. I hear your frustration and I understand your desperation.
It is hard to watch, hard to listen, and even harder to respond. But it is necessary that we do so.
As difficult as it is to bare all the atrocities in the world right now, I want to challenge you: Don’t just turn off the news. Don’t just say I can’t handle this, the world sucks too much. Don’t just post a link to a cat video on Facebook instead or take the latest “If I were an animal, what type of animal would I be?” Buzzfeed quiz. If you need to do those things to cope and have balance in your life, by all means please do. But don’t just walk away. Don’t just say “What can I do?!” and then throw your hands up and walk away, never putting in the time to find an answer to that question.
You don’t have to get another degree. You don’t have to wait until you’re “financially able.” You don’t have to quit your job and go into something more “noble.” Whatever position you are in, you are in a position to make an impact. We all have a voice. We all have resources. Our voice and our resources differ, and that’s a good thing.
There are lots of people doing really cool things with the talents they have been given, even if they think those talents or financial resources aren’t significant. I have seen people do so much with very little.
You say, “But I don’t know where to start!”
Yes you do.
Google is a great thing. It’s how I found my friend Catherine when I was looking for a way to help Syrian refugees. Catherine is an amazing woman with many useful skills, indeed, but you know what else she has? A garage. And she’s used that garage as a place to store clothes, toys, books, jackets, and all kinds of things that wealthier people don’t want or need anymore and she’s pulled together a community of volunteers to help meet the needs of Syrian refugees and poor Jordanians throughout Jordan. And together they’ve raised probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, clothed thousands of people, kept them warm in winter, given shoes to kids, and funded medical procedures for countless people who would have otherwise died. And as amazing as Catherine is, she is no more amazing than you or me.
There are lots of people doing really cool things with the talents they have been given, even if they think those talents or financial resources aren’t significant. I have seen people do so much with very little; or people who could have been uber-successful by the world’s standards, but chose a road with eternal impact instead.
These people have not waited … they haven’t waited for someone more qualified to come along, they haven’t waited until they got a degree (though some are quite accomplished!) … they haven’t waited until they felt emotionally ready to confront the world and all its self-inflicted horror … they haven’t waited until they were millionaires … they saw needs and they stood up to meet them. They found themselves broken by an “issue,” and rose to the challenge of helping to meet the needs of the people affected by such issue. I should also add that each of them had to sacrifice something to do so … financial success … a glamorous career … physical comfort … the approval of others. Each of them has counted this cost and counted it as worth it.
We all can do something. It’s actually really easy to find an answer to the “what can I do?” question. And if you’d like, send me a message and I would be glad to try to help you with that. But it’s less easy to find an answer to the question “WHY won’t I do something?” That one I’m afraid I can’t help you with.
What is your Syria, your Gaza, your Hartford, your Myanmar, your Afghanistan, your airplane falling from the sky?
What compels you to want to do something? Don’t wait for someone else to come along and bring peace and healing to these places. Together, we have what it takes.
So please, let today be the day you stop asking “What can I do?” and start actually looking for an answer.