Everybody needs your help
Clearing out some emails tonight, I saw the subject of one reading, “Seniors in Isolation Need Your Help.” My first thought was, gosh, really, when you think about it, everybody needs my help. The kids crying and traumatized in concentration (I mean, detention) camps need my help. Isolated senior citizens need my help. Whales swallowing plastic need my help. The neighbor down the street whose basement was flooded last week needs my help. A friend starting to acknowledge the severity of her ailing mother needs my help. And by golly, these crazy boys living in my house sure do need a LOT more help curbing their misdirected urine, intense energy and spontaneous life-threatening poor decisions.
It’s pretty easy to become scatterbrained clicking on every email and every story and every social media post calling out for your help. It’s pretty easy to start thinking that the world is completely falling apart based on the endless cries for help. And it’s pretty easy to start feeling hopeless that there’s no way this one aging, exhausted mother of three is ever going to meet all those cries for help.
It seems to me, though, that the key to saving the world is by focusing on the little thing right in front of you and letting the love spread. A colleague of mine ends all her emails with the words “Make good ripples.” This has been sitting on my mind. When I talk to undergraduate and graduate students and professionals about what can be done to tackle the enormous and complicated construct of poverty in this country, I ask them to think of small things that can be done every day to make a difference. Give someone a smile. Hold the door open. Make eye contact. Share a hug. The smallest gesture of acknowledging the humanity in one another will make good ripples. It will share a little joy that can spread into bigger and bigger ripples of service and advocacy.
Take that one step further and find a charity that matches your passion, whether it’s with children or animals, homelessness or the elderly, the environment or your house of worship. Become a monthly donor to sustain their work. Sign up for emails or texts to provide you with daily or weekly action points, such as calling or writing to your representative about issues. Read wisely and become informed. Listen to others’ stories and speak for those who cannot.
Another key is having appropriate expectations for oneself. There was a period of time in my life when I worked full-time, parented young kids and spent hours and hours every week opening up a non-profit to care for children and families. That was a time that I could hear the cry for help and meet the need. But I can’t work at that level, survive on reduced sleep at that level, and not be present for my own children at that level every day. My expectation has shifted to match my current situation and now I look for other ways to spread joy and serve.
Some days one can wander along the path of despair in the vastness of the need. Some days it can seem like there is no way to make a difference. Some days, you just have to refocus on meeting the needs of a few people at a time, knowing that tomorrow always brings new opportunities. I know that I can not save the world myself, but I know that I can continue to love others, serve others and make good ripples.