What’s within your reach?

March 17, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”  – Clarissa Pikola Estes

How often inaction is driven by thinking too big. We think about the problems of the world and they become too big for us to tackle ourselves, so we do nothing. We cannotescape provide food for the millions in Africa who are starving, so we do nothing. We cannot stop the genocides that are on going in the Middle East, so we do nothing. We cannot stop human trafficking, so we do nothing. Doing nothing is the easy choice. We fail to see what we can do right in our own back yard. What’s within your reach?

If we really took the time to stretch out and see the needs right close to us, we would be able to do plenty to reduce hunger and suffering and human exploitation right in our own towns and cities. How often do we scurry by that homeless beggar on the corner asking for our help? How easy is it for us to look the other way when we see a teenage girl selling herself on the streets to support a drug habit? How many times must we tune into the nightly news and do nothing as we see and hear about another massacre in our schools or churches. These things are happening within our reach. Stretch out and try to mend what you see every day. What’s within your reach?

We tend to let ourselves generalize the problems that we see and let them grow into homeless manseemingly unsolvable huge things that we are incapable of solving alone. It’s not just that homeless beggar, it’s all homeless people. It’s not just that one teen prostitute, it’s all people hooked on drugs. It’s not just that one crazed shooter, it’s all of the disturbed people in the world.  If we let that happen, we become paralyzed by the enormous size of the problems than we see. What’s within your reach?

But, what if you could help that one homeless person that you meet get back on their feet and become a productive member of society again? What if you could save that young girl from a life on the streets? What if your efforts to alert authorities about an unstable person who is headed towards becoming a shooter could prevent that from happening and stop the carnage before it happens? Do you see how taking action, even with only one person in need, can change things in the world? If you can see it, what is stopping your from doing it? Look around. What’s within your reach?

Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to act alone. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable tryingsewrving soup to approach the homeless person or the street walker with your offer to help. Maybe fear keeps you from saying anything to (or about) that unstable person. There are still ways that you can help. There are organizations that you can join and work for that provide that help and intervention. Groups like Community Sharing are here locally, within your reach. Groups like the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force exist and run hotlines that provide help. They need people to do the work that they do. They are within your reach. And there are crime tip hotlines like the Safe School Helpline in every state that provide an anonymous way for to alert the authorities about a potential problem person. That phone call is within your reach.

So, don’t become paralyzed by thinking too big. Think about what is within your reach and then take actions to do something about what you can see. If everyone, everywhere just did that the big national  problems would fade away one local solution at a time. What’s within your reach?

Don’t worry about it…

January 15, 2016

“There are two kinds of worries—those you can do something about and those you can’t.  Don’t spend any time on the latter.”  (Duke Ellington)

panicI’ve written here a few time about wasting time and energy on worrying about stuff, rather than coming up to fix things that you can do something about. The secret to success in Ellington’s little quote is figuring out the difference between those things that you can do something about and those that you can’t. Unfortunately this is not an easy skill to develop r to consistently apply in our everyday lives. The result is that we spend too much time worrying about things that we can’t change, impact or fix.

worriesLet’s face it, there are many problems in the world around us that are worrisome, but which we can do little about. World hunger, wars, diseases, income and wealth inequities come to mind, as do a number of other very large and very widespread problems that we sometime worry about. Some find a solution to their worries by jumping into some cause or movement that is focused upon these bigger problems and that’s not a bad thing, if you can let go of your personal worry and focus on the group mission.

There are also big issues that may be too big for any one individual to solve, but which at least lend themselves to some individual efforts that may have impact. Bullying, for
bully.pnginstance, while too wide spread of an issue to be solved by one person, is such that the actions of each individual are helpful and additive towards resolving the problem. If one takes the attitude and approach that the end of bullying begins with me, then there may be one less action or statement or display that reinforces the practice. The foundation of change is to stop the old way and then go forward from that fresh beginning. Stopping bullying when you see it or standing up for those being bullied removes one more worry from your plate, because you could do something about that and you did.

Many of our worries are really based upon fears with the biggest contributors being fear of
failure and fear of rejection. Some of us spend so much time worrying about failure that weask for dance never even try the thing at which we are worried about failing. In our personal relations, our worries (fears) about possibly being rejected keep us in our seats instead of asking the girl or guy of our dreams for a dance or a date. Those, too, are worries that we can do something about.

You must confront those fears and overcome them. What is the worst that could happen – that he/she says NO? Would you still be alive? Would there still be hope that someday in the future that answer could change? The answers are yes, so don’t spend all of yoOh crapur time worrying about the consequences of an action that you are to frozen by fear to even take. Go for it! Do it! It won’t kill you and maybe you’ll even get the answer that you hoped for and not the one that you are spending all of your time worrying about. If you want to worry about something, worry about where you’ll go on the date or whether or not you can dance if you get the chance. It least those are things that you can do something about.

So, back to our initial topic from the quote; I think it’s important in life to develop at least some ability to sort out the things that you are worrying about into those two classes – things that you can do something abort and things that you can’t. Once sorted you may find comfort in the little prayer that I’ve referenced many time here before for those things that you now realize that you can’t do something about. Just lay them in God’s hands by praying, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Then let those things go and go on to working on the things that you can do something about. You’ll worry less and get more done that way.

Have a great, worry-free weekend!

But, do you care a whole awful lot?

July 7, 2015

Today’s thoughts for the day come from two quotes that I first saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.”  (Gandhi)

– and –

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”  (Dr. Seuss)

A good number of the world’s problems that Gandhi was talking about go unresolved because no one cares a whole awful lot and thus they don’t even try to solve them.  Sometimes it’s because we have a tendency to see big issues or problems, like world hunger, and think, “What could one little person like me do about that?” We don’t see a way to make our small contribution or think that it would even matter against such a big problem. Yet it was one little person who cared who started programs like Gleaners. In the Detroit area that one person was Gene Gonya. From the Detroit Gleaners site comes this background story –

Born in 1940, Gene Gonya grew up on the family farm in Ohio. At age 19, he became a Brother in the Jesuit Religious Community believing in their motto of “doing all for the greater honor and glory of God.”

In 1977, Gene chose to leave the Jesuit Community and continue his mission of community service as a lay person of the Catholic Church. In April of 1977, he co-founded Gleaners Community Food Bank, renting the first floor of a warehouse on Detroit’s near-eastside, a stone’s throw from the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. The food bank was founded to solicit surplus food, store it safely, and distribute it to agencies that are the direct providers to the hungry of our communities. The food bank could now accept donations such as truckloads of produce from Gene’s family farm and “bank” it for small or large organizations serving the community, since none of these service agencies could accept such large donations.

Gleaners in Detroit was among the first food banks in the United States. Several years after founding Gleaners, Gene and a few other food banks founded Second Harvest, a national network of food bank members (now called Feeding America). Gene also helped found the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

Gene was a person who cared a whole awful lot.

caringAlmost every good thing starts with someone who cares enough to take action. Sometimes that’s the extent of it, but many times others join in and before you know it a movement or trend is born. Sometimes you can join groups who already have work in progress, like the Rotary Clubs which are waging a campaign to wipe out polio on the planet,  and make your contribution to the effort. Sometimes you have to start the group. It all starts with someone who cares an awful lot. The good news is found in what Gandhi said – we can accomplish a lot more than we believe we can, if we just take action. I wrote a post here about the fact that many are called but few get up, so to steal a line from the Marines and adapt it a bit; be one of the few, the proud the ones that got up and did something. Be one of the ones who cared a whole awful lot.

Find your place to help this week. Show that you care and show the world what you are capable of. Have a great week!

Put on your slippers…

August 6, 2014

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “It’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.”  (Al Franken)  Jack went on to write – It’s interesting to note that there’s an actual comedian in Congress.  In thisslippewrs instance, Al’s humor makes sense.  We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can do something about some of them.  Foster-parenting is one.  Collecting school clothing for needy kids is another.  Are there people you know who are wearing slippers today?

An inverse or negative way to make the same statement might be – “It’s easier to put on a pair of boots than to clean up the mess that you’ve got to walk through.” Many people seem happy to just put on a pair of boots and wade through the mess, rather than working to clean things up. Still others would prefer to stand on one side and complain about the mess that is preventing them from progressing; again, rather than do anything to clean it up. Do you know people like that, too?

bucket and scoopSo, which are you? Do you put on your sippers and do what you can now, without waiting for the floor to be carpeted; for everything to be perfect? Do you avoid the work of cleaning things up by putting on a pair of boots and wading through the mess; or, do you grab a bucket and shovel or mop and start making things right?

What’s the common thread between those two views of the world? It’s taking action to do something, rather than finding excuses to wait and not act just because the conditions aren’t perfect. I’ve know people who spend inordinate amounts of time making excuses about why they aren’t doing something and what they have to wait for, rather than jumping in and helping or righting a wrong. They convince themselves and then try to convince those around them that they can’t takeboots action until some other thing is corrected first. In their minds, the act of making the excuse is action and they claim to be ready to act, just as soon as the imagined obstacles in their way are removed. By the time that happens the job has been done or the need has passed, usually not with good results. Of course then they convince themselves that the need wasn’t really all that important in the first place.

So, today, put on your slippers, or get out your shovel, and starting doing something that needs to be done, rather than finding more excuses for doing nothing. Sure the world isn’t perfect and it won’t be no matter how long you wait, but someone will be happier in your little corner of the world because you reached out and helped or did what needed to be done. World hunger will not be solved; but some little, old lonely person will be happy tonight because you brought them a Meals –on-Wheels meal and stayed to chat for w few moments. Some at-risk child will go to bed tonight with a smile on his or her face because you took the time through Big Brothers or Big Sisters to reach out to them and help. Some soldier helping childin a far off land will feel more connected to home because you took the time to write a note and send some treats.

You may not have solved the worlds issues with hunger and loneliness in the elderly or resolve the issues with at risk children or cause world peace and bring all of the soldier everywhere home; but your single act of caring or kindness made one little part of that bigger problem better, at least for today. And tonight, when you take your slippers off, you will feel a whole lot better about yourself.