“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” (Mother Teresa)
It’s super easy to spiral into hopelessness when checking out the news or social media. War. Wildfires. Politics. Shootings. Sex-trafficking. Addiction. You don’t have to look very far to find what’s going wrong. It might even be impacting your own family. It all feels heavy, dire and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
Where do I start? Who do I help? What can I possibly do to make a small dent for good in this gut-wrenching broken world? Would it even make a difference? Those hard questions probably come up for you when you think about it. They do for me.
I felt that a lot as a mom. There were gigantic, world-shattering issues and I was just changing diapers, helping with homework, feeding hungry bellies, cheering at events, and getting needed tasks accomplished, both at work and at home.
I still feel it. My days are mostly borne out in the small, the mundane, the ordinary. No earth-changing happening here. Or so it sure seems.
Many times, I fall into the trap of two not-so-helpful thought-patterns and thus choices:
- Draining what little time and energy I have getting stuck trying to figure out what is most crucial or…
- Crumpling under the sheer magnitude of all the horror.
Other times, thank God, I am reminded of something wiser:
3. Make the world a better place because I am in it.
It doesn’t matter what we invest ourselves in. We can care about clean water for the planet, special education needs in our communities, or our own child struggling with his math problems. It can be a big-world, local community or one-person issue. We, all by our sweet selves, can be a powerful force for good. We’ve done it thousands of times, most of it small and seemingly insignificant: a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, a meal made, a listening ear, a thoughtful gift.
No, we can’t do everything. But we can do something. And that is lots better than doing nothing.
Friday night, this came true outside of our normal, work-a-day world. Allen and I, after much encouragement from my brother, Stephen (okay, he asked us about 10 times before we could say “yes”), drove our little selves to Elizabeth, NJ in 40 degree, rainy weather, to serve soup and hand out socks on the Relief Bus with him and some of his let’s-change-the-world college students.
Yes. I finally took the plunge into “the poor being the very portal to the heart of God” thing my friend Juan Galloway always talks about.
We met people who didn’t have their mental ducks in a row. We met an unwed, teenage soon-to-be mom. We met a man who prayed for us in a loud voice and called the power of Jesus down on us. We met a “used-to-live-in-the-suburbs” couple who wanted to overcome their addiction to heroin and were desperate to get into a detox and rehab facility. Their names are Dan and Jessica.
The bottom line is we met people. Just people.
People with hopes and dreams not realized.
People with needs not met.
People with kids they are worrying about.
People waiting to see how God will show up and wondering if He will.
People. Just people.
Doing those few hours, our minds and bodies were taken up with passing out socks and soup, praying with these beautiful souls as they wanted, reminding them not to give up and that God saw them and every single one of their needs and that He loves them. It was a good break from obsessing over the huge, complicated plight of the homeless in our broken culture and broken systems.
As we got in the car and were debriefing together, those consuming thoughts came rushing back. “It’s so complicated.” “What a mess.” “Are there enough beds?” “Everyone is on SSI or disability.” “Are we adding to the problem?” “No one is working.” “Is a cup of soup really making a difference?” “How is this ever going to be fixed?” Even before we left, our kind guide said to us, “No, you are not going to fix homelessness in one night.” UGH.
Very quickly, as “not-so-helpful” option #2 buzzed around in the car, floating out there and ready to consume us with hopelessness, we chose to cling to option #3: make the world a better place because we are in it.
Love our neighbor. Period.
Choose good. Period.
Bring hope. Period.
You see, whether we’re digging a well in Rwanda (YAY, we got to do that), washing the dishes in our kitchen (do that every day ugh), handing out socks to the homeless, cutting up bite-size portions for our toddler’s dinner (did that for like 10 years straight), putting money in a bucket at church (our church has a popcorn bucket…how fun is that?), saying thank you to your local barista (I don’t drink coffee, but I bet most of you do), all those tiny, supposedly inconsequential moments of good grow into the huge life stories of hope, change and restoration. The good beats back the bad one choice at a time, one person at a time. It’s not insignificant after all. It’s essential.
I’m not sure where your passion lies, what sets your soul on fire, what your heart longs to see restored. Be encouraged. Your “cup of soup” for one “hungry” person will send ripples of life-changing goodness into the world. And don’t forget this one very important thing: the “hungry” are everywhere, perhaps even sitting next to you.
From my heart to yours.
**Huge shout-out today to New York City Relief and Juan Galloway (their fearless leader) for allowing us to get up close and personal. Check out these four places for more information. GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL YOURSELF.**
VOLUNTEER (your time – join all these cool names on the wall)
DONATE (your money or hygiene kits)
LISTEN to Juan’s story about his week on the streets living as homeless
READ Juan’s blog