It’s such a big, needy world: What can I do?
Context features this week the appalling suffering of the Rohingya people at the hands of their fierce former neighbours in Myanmar/Burma.
Meanwhile, our American cousins can’t believe that their governments are housing (if that’s the right word for it—and it isn’t) children in disgusting border camps of their own.
Those are just two of today’s stories. Meanwhile, what about those refugees from the Syrian civil war—and those Syrians that remain, terrified of what will happen once the vicious Bashar al-Assad, as he seems to be on the verge of doing, regains full authority again?
Remember Sudan—and South Sudan? Has anything resolved over there? The opioid crisis here at home—isn’t that still going on?
Those Canadian indigenous women raped and beaten and killed—what should we do about them? And isn’t Boko Haram still raping and beating and killing women in northern Nigeria?
Meanwhile, the oppression, corruption, and violence of the Central African Republic, and Zimbabwe, and Congo, and Niger grind on…while non-Hindus cower in the face of new electoral power given to the pro-Hindu majority across India, and the Uighur people wonder why no one seems to care about the slow genocide being visited upon them in western China….
What can I possibly do in the face of these gigantic horrors? What can you do?
Jesus instructively provided us the story of the Good Samaritan, a man going about his business who came across someone in need (Luke 10:25-37). That poor robbery victim by the side of the road was right there, and the Samaritan had motive, means, and opportunity to help him. So he did.
That’s what it means to love your neighbour: to do something to benefit someone whom life has brought near to you. That person in need might be physically in proximity to you, as in the story Jesus told. Or he or she might be pressing on your heart through a story you have read or viewed about people far away. Either way, you feel them to be near. They’re your neighbours.
Can you help them? Then help them.
Don’t waste time value-signaling. Don’t waste emotion feeling sad. “Liking” on Facebook or Twitter isn’t nothing—it can encourage other people, a little, to attend to certain matters that matter. But it doesn’t put a single meal in front of a single person, let alone get someone out of a camp.
No, only sustained pressure aimed at a particular problem moves the needle, opens the door, alters the situation, repairs the world.
Be a social justice warrior—but be a good one. A wise one. An effective one.
Successful warriors don’t try to attack everywhere at once, solve every problem at once, spread out their limited resources so thinly that no one anywhere is actually helped.
Warriors focus. And they commit to the long term. And they expect setbacks. And they carry on. And they accept partial successes as the only kinds of success one normally gets to enjoy in this world.
They recognize that their cause isn’t the only cause. They bless others whose fight is elsewhere. But they keep in front of their eyes the one thing they feel called to address, and they address it. Hard.
Weeping while watching horrible events on your screen will help not one person depicted on that screen. Getting out your chequebook or credit card will. Volunteering will. Writing to the influential will. Joining good organizations and encouraging those who lead them will.
You can’t save everyone. But try to save someone. One isn’t infinity, but it is infinitely greater than zero.
Whom should you help? Pick someone. Anyone.
What can you do? What you can do. Do it.
That’s how the world gets better. Not by feeling bad, but by doing good.