Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own “somebodiness.” Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
My daughter brings tears to my eyes regularly. Even though she “only” just turned 13, she’s basically always used her “voice” and abilities to help people who could use a hand (like helping with the disabled kiddos at school every week). Just the other day on Instagram she posted a pic of her in white t-shirt with a big red X, noting: “There are more slaves in the world now then ever before. 55% of them are women. You can help end slavery and human trafficking donate to enditmovment.com today or any other place. Spread awareness to this problem. #enditmovement” I share this not just because I’m SO proud of her, but because I’m firmly convinced this daring teen shows your voice matters, YOU make a difference in the world.
As I grew up, I knew I was “supposed” to care for marginalized and hurting people, like my daughter Lara does, but many of the messages I heard telling me I NEED to love others were based on guilt and shame. The way I understood things was I SHOULD care for others, I was EXPECTED to help the hurting, and if I didn’t, then God would be ANGRY with me. Perhaps you can relate to this. Society, religion, communities, friends, family, nations, advertisements, and so on can fill our minds with what we “should” do, how we are failures if we don’t, and pressure us with guilt and shame.
I know this probably won’t shock you, but when I lived in the guilt and shame paradigm, the “ought” and “should” way of thinking, and being “encouraged” to do good things out of fear for being punished if I didn’t, I did NOT speak up for and use my resources to help people like my daughter freely and fully does as a youth. Guilt trips are often super good at getting immediate and short-term results, but I think it’s fair to say they do NOT lead to real and lasting change.
What changed the game for me was The Flow. What’s “The Flow” you ask? Great question! In the beginning (as we understand it), God created stars, planets, plants, animals, humans, and so on from/for/with Love. From a joyous, generative, and relational space the Creator creates. The Source of life forms and cares for EVERYTHING from an overabundance and overflow of Love. Love, joy, beauty, kindness, and relationship are how “we” came to be, the grain of reality now, and where we’re going. Love, that is the giving of oneself for thriving and flourishing, is The Flow of the universe. I was loved and celebrated from the beginning, am now, and will be forevermore. The same is true of YOU and everyone else, and grasping this and living into it increasingly leads me to care for and help others because I WANT to, it’s easy, it’s going with The Flow. I realized Love is the fire at the center of my being that’s been there all along. Life is about caring for each other and celebrating together.
This leads me to something else you may have experienced: There’s TOO much. There’s too much pain and suffering in the world, there’s too many wars, there’s too many mass shootings, there are too many homeless people, there’s too many starving children, there’s too many people without access to clean drinking water, there’s too many people caught up in human trafficking (i.e. slavery), there’s too many people suffering from curable illnesses, there’s too much sexual abuse, there’s too much abuse of our environment, and so on. This can lead us to shutting down and doing nothing, because “how can little ole me make a difference with so many problems?” Or it can result in us compassionately wanting to help EVERYWHERE, which can be paralyzing or limiting.
As the suffering in the world cracked my heart wide open and I wanted to give toward and tell people how they can help ALL THE ISSUES, a friend of mine said: “That’s not doable, why don’t you pick the two things you’re most passionate about and champion those causes?” Heading this wise advice has been super helpful for me. As I considered the problems of human trafficking, hunger, unclean water, wars, homelessness, illness, the environment, and more, I realized I was most passionate about ending human trafficking and providing clean drinking water to people. With that in mind, in my circles as applicable I’ve raised awareness on these topics, I’ve participated in walks, runs, and other events, and I regularly give to a few organizations I feel are doing great things.
(This is my daughter’s post on Instagram)
NONE of these things are particularly time intensive and I don’t give huge sums of money, YET they make a difference. My sharing with people how unclean water kills more people annually than all forms of violence combined, has helped influence people in their compassion and giving. Since I became aware of the problem in 2010 until now, the number of people living without access to clean drinking water, while still enormous, has shrunk by HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS! Small monthly donations to Exodus Road directly lead to the freedom of enslaved people around the world. They send text messages whenever people get freed, and I’d estimate I get one weekly. I share this to encourage you by saying: The small, little things you do amidst your “ordinary” life to raise awareness concerning local and/or global problems, the simple things you do to care for others, your thoughts/prayers, and the doable amounts of time and/or money you give to help people thrive and flourish MATTERS. Like my daughter’s simple Instagram post, EVERY little bit you do to combat the evils in the world and heal the ills makes a difference!
Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Grace and peace,