This summer has been hard on our hearts. I know I’m not the only one feeling it. Every week, every day, some new atrocity. The world on fire. People fleeing and drowning. Children suffering the brutal consequences of adult madness.
I watch it happen from my relatively safe corner of the world and find myself grasping for something tangible. What can I do? And as the death rate goes up and one tragic event is followed by another, there’s that sensation of drowning. Of hopelessness. How could I possibly make a difference in the face of such horrors?
I know your heart is breaking. So is mine. Maybe it’s the only sane response to what is happening.
To allow the breaking to happen, the tears, the feeling so utterly lost. Some days it’s all more than we can bear. And then we must find a way to bear it. But not all of it. Just our part.
I read a few lines in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that stopped me in my tracks.
”The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather – for I believe the heart is infinite – modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry. It’s good, I think, for our hearts, our minds, our imaginations to be stretched; but body, nerve, endurance and life-span are not as elastic. My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.”
She wrote these words more than fifty years ago, before the Internet or email or smartphones even existed. If she felt flooded by more suffering than she could respond to back then (and I believe her), then how are we to handle the situation we live in today, where there’s no relief from the constant onslaught of news, images and stories about tragedy and suffering?
How could we possibly “implement in action the demands of all the people to whom [our] hearts respond”, when those people count in the tens of thousands? In the millions even.
We can’t. We simply can’t.
Turning away is not an option. But trying to save the whole world isn’t either, and getting real about this is the only way we can begin to take any kind of sustainable action.
Don’t close your heart to protect yourself from the hurt. Let it break over children you cannot save, the state of mother earth. Pray for them, send cash to whomever is doing the work, and then focus on the one thing that you CAN do right now.
And what you CAN do will vary, greatly. What is within your reach depends on so many things – your health, your finances, your nationality, your level of knowledge, kids or not, young or old, introvert or extrovert.
There’s a tendency – particularly on social media – to express one’s convictions and opinions out loud and then expect everyone to do the same, in the same way. And if they don’t, there’s that suspicion – spoken or unspoken: Don’t you care? Are you not with us? Being quiet means complying.
Not always. Being quiet sometimes means being busy doing good work and not having time to stop and tweet about it.
We don’t have time for a competition about who’s caring the most. We need to focus on whatever it is that each of us can do, and that may be big or small, close to home or global, and it may or may not involve speaking our commitment out loud.
Changing this world for the better is a vast and complex mission and we cannot all stand on the frontline, organizing protest marches or sailing the Mediterranean in search for refugees in need. Thank goodness for those who do, but if we all did, we’d be neglecting other aspects of the change that needs to happen.
The long-term, patient political work.
The deconstruction of white supremacy on every single level of our societies.
The deconstruction of patriarchy, empowering women all over the planet to rise up and help decide what the true priorities of the human race should be.
The slow process of changing our school systems to foster more compassionate citizens who are willing and able to take on the challenges of this world.
The task of raising our own children to remain vulnerable, powerful beings, who learn by our example that love is indeed stronger than hate.
The stories that need to be written and told, to bear witness and to remind us of our shared humanity.
The tender work of healing trauma, both collectively and individually, so that we can show up strong and whole for the work that needs to be done.
The re-invention of our relationship to money, so that we can harness its immense power for good.
There are so many ways we can contribute. All of them necessary.
Focusing on whatever good work is within our reach is always the kindest – and I believe fastest – way forward, and the only way to keep us out of overwhelm in a media landscape that seems determined to throw us into despair and hopelessness. To focus on the task before us, the one thing we can do today that will bring us closer to love.
Is it enough?
Who can say? We’re in the thick of it, right now. There’s massive, rapid change happening and no one even knows what tomorrow will look like.
All we can know for sure is that love is a choice. And we can commit to that choice. We can make it our daily work and if we do, we’ll be adding to the good of this world. In our own unique ways, we’ll be lightworkers and changemakers, and eventually, we’ll help tip the scale in love’s favour.
In everything we do, we either move towards love or away from it. There’s only ever that choice.