There are some days in which the news and current events overwhelm me. My heart aches with sadness. Sometimes, my mind flashes with bitter, angry thoughts. On more than one occasion I have visualized God as having a big, messy desk that is in need of a deep cleaning. Like others, I struggle to comprehend why things happen. More often than not, there is no reason. Sometimes, this leads to feeling powerless.
When I get upset about the lack of compassion, empathy and kindness shared in our world, as well as the judgments we cast so easily upon one another, I try to remember something my son once said to me. “Everyone has a different way of seeing things and telling a story. That is their perspective. We can look at the same thing but all see it in many different ways.” His words caused me to pause.
When my heart tugs at the cords of my existence, I now give myself permission to do just that- pause. In doing so, I’m reminded that while we can’t control everything that happens, we can control our reaction. By pausing, I can reflect and own my personal bias that influences my perspective.
I may never have all the answers or reasons. I may never be able to help an entire village or community. However, when I see an opportunity to do good, I can choose to embrace it.
Yesterday, I saw a woman with a little girl, not much older than 4 or 5, holding a sign asking for help in the form of donations. Going against everything that a “street smart” Chicago Dad instilled in his daughter, fully aware that many people are known to “scam” others with these tactics, my heart tugged in their direction. I went into the grocery store they were standing in front of and I bought lunch for the little girl.
Sometimes, we must expose our vulnerability and fight the fear of others seeing it as a weakness. The choice of feeling vulnerable often leads to an opportunity to use what we have to lift someone else up. It is my hope that my little bit of good imprinted a positive memory on a child beyond a sandwich. Above all, I hope she felt as though someone did notice her and does care about her.
God’s big desk has many, many files. Good comes in all forms, on all levels and even the most seemingly small act of good contributes to the greater good of the world. That’s a message that my youngest seems to already comprehend. Feeling overwhelmed is no more an answer than judging someone or feeling angry is. Doing what we can, in our own way and playing our part is.
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley