Authored by Mara Hodler
There is a message that’s been on my mind for some time. It’s been composing itself in my head as I have waited to find the time to put it into words. For the past few weeks, each time I log onto my Facebook page, which is also, ashamedly, my news source, I have seen things that greatly troubled me.
At the time of writing this, there are some really ugly things going on in the news. You may be seeing some pretty ugly things in the news today, and just like me, you may oscillate between anger toward the perpetrators and despair for everyone else.
As people post this stuff into their feed, there are always comments like, “This is so sad!” or “I hate that this is happening!” While I agree with both of those statements, I can’t help but feel that they’re a bit useless. How does saying that we dislike these huge catastrophic problems help the people who are having their lives turned upside down because of them? It does nothing for them.
So what do I do? Do I pack up a large first-aid kid and head off to Palestine? Do I open my home to five homeless families? Do I put up a video on YouTube exposing the nastiness of bullying? How can I actually make a difference? Have you ever wondered anything like this?
I think this is sort of a universal question that mankind has been asking for millennia now, What are we supposed to do about the horrible stuff that happens in the world?
Some people take the approach of not knowing and not caring. They don’t follow the news; they block out all the problems and loop the “Everything is Awesome” song track through their head all day long.
Others figure that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and they have to look out for el numero uno. It’s okay to trample on someone else, because if you don’t trample on someone else, then someone else will trample on you.
You also see the people who just conclude, in despair, that it’s all just a waste of time. This life is misery. Why try and help anyone? It won’t make any difference. But that attitude is very depressing.
Another popular approach is to convince ourselves that we are helping, when what we’re doing is really useless but it makes us feel good. Like donating to massive charities that are ineffective, but ignoring the needs we see around us every day. Sometimes people find something that makes them feel like they have done “their part” and which then makes them feel that they are absolved of any further responsibility for the state of the world.
You can probably tell by my tone that I am not fond of any of these approaches. But that still doesn’t leave me with an answer. I’ve given this a lot of thought of late, as it’s something I have to make peace with. I don’t want to live in fear, ignorance, and depression regarding the fate of the world and where it’s headed.
So, in my seeking I looked to the life of Jesus. In ancient Palestine there were plenty of problems, pretty much the same problems we face today: poverty, sickness, suffering, oppression, cruelty, and indifference.
Jesus didn’t start a charity or campaign to end all the suffering in Palestine. Rather He helped those around Him each and every day. He healed, encouraged, blessed, and made whole person after person every day.
There were probably “bigger” ways he could have gone about it, but that wasn’t His style. He mostly looked to the individual that was right in front of Him. But what did those blessed, healed, and made-whole people do? They went out and spread the joy, the good news, and the blessing. And in turn, those they blessed and encouraged probably turned around and did the same for someone else. And Jesus’ ripple effect still continues today.
That’s not to say that a campaign or charity is the wrong thing to do. If you are called to move the world in such a way, then by all means, do it. But if you can’t do that, then at least do something. Be kind. Be a light.
Be a bright spot in a dark world. Keep caring.
Treat each person you interact with every day as an opportunity to share something beautiful. Talk to the cashier, smile at the kid in the park, thank the teacher/policeman/mailman/server. Be gracious with the poor guy on the street corner.
And go a step further by being generous as well. Give of your time, resources, and heart to others. Imagine how different a place the world would be if each person was like that.
Neither you nor I may be able to make a difference to the whole world, but we can make a HUGE difference in the little bit of world that surrounds us. When we are kind to someone, they usually turn around and are kind to the next person. And those ripples of kindness can reach around the world!
So, my conclusion to the problem is that while there may be problems in the world that I cannot do much about, there is usually someone or something right in front of me that needs my help. There I can make a difference, and I will try my best to keep being someone who cares.
When I can help in a big way, I will help in a big way. When I can help in a small way, I will help in a small way. And regardless of how I help, I will remember Jesus’ words:
“I tell all of you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”1
I hope you will join me in this. And I hope we encourage as many others as we can to join us in this.
1 Matthew 25:40 ISV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International