Do a little bit of good where you are.
Those little bits put together
. . . overwhelm the world
– Desmond Tutu.
We Americans grow up with a pretty heavy emphasis on personal responsibility.
“If it is to be, it is up to me!” (Maybe you heard that growing up too.)
Personal responsibility makes us a motivated people. We tend to be a get-up-and-get-it-done lot! But we also tend to be an overwhelmed lot. The personal-responsibility off-switch can be hard to find.
It is difficult to discern when…
“if it is to be, it is NOT up to me?”
As feelings go, “overwhelmed” is pretty debilitating. When overwhelm has its way, it swamps us. We can’t take care of the most basic things – eating, working, grocery shopping – the most basic of daily stuff.
So, we work very hard to protect ourselves from it. Most of us develop internal strategies to keep overwhelm at bay.
We shut it down.
We turn it off.
We back away.
We look the other way.
“My co-worker is getting divorced. She’s clearly hurting. Her life is upended. Her problems are big! Overwhelming-Big! . . . . Hey! That email needs some attention. I’ll get right on that.”
Racial tension is bubbling over every night on the news. My friend at church is from another race. I know there is pain there. But race is big! Overwhelming-Big! I’ll say the wrong thing. I’ll make things worse. . . . . Hey look, there’s a potluck. What shall I make?”
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
“Ya, I guess it’s not going to be.”
You can see the problem. To not be overwhelmed by our overly active sense of responsibility — responsibility for the whole problem — we don’t assess what little piece we can do.
Pretty soon, the whole lot of us – are doing nothing — instead of a little bit of something.
Listen to the wisdom of Mother Theresa:
If you can’t feed a hundred people . . . just feed one.
Think about this with me this week.
If you can’t solve somebody you know’s big problem…
Are you holding back even the little bit you have?
Have you withdrawn? Turned away? Stepped back?
A lot of us do.
Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
We’re just trying not to be overwhelmed.
So again, reflect with me this week.
What do I have . . . that I could give someone?
What love? Or time? Or listening ear? Or caring touch?
What do I have that I really could give?
Even knowing that I won’t solve the whole problem . . .
What do I have to offer?
At least we say when we give our gifts:
“I am with you.
You are not alone.”
Next week I’ll tell you a story about earthworms.