Has this ever happened to you? Some cause or issue or need crosses your consciousness; you forget about it only to have it reappear in a day or two as a comment you hear or a book that you come upon. Maybe in another week it happens again.
You can choose to ignore this, or pay attention and see where it leads. Sometimes you do not want to pay attention because it might require something of you – first your attention, then perhaps some research, thought, conversations with people about it, and quite possibly a change in some aspect of your life.
You know this could involve a lot of work, so you choose to put it on the shelf. That’s okay; for now. If the whole process happens again down the road though, I think it is wise to pursue it.
Certainly there are many things in this world that need changing, and we can’t all do something about all of them, but any positive change begins with the recognition of a need somewhere.
Whether it is hunger in your community or another country, an elderly widow in your neighborhood who occasionally needs a ride somewhere, slave labor on cocoa farms, the huge amount of chemicals used on our food supply, or the needs of an immigrant family to learn English and how to navigate in our culture – they are all important. Don’t belittle someone else’s “cause” or get upset with someone because they are not caught up in yours.
We all have different strengths and different spheres of influence. In addition, different seasons in our lives bring varying amounts of time, resources, energy, knowledge, and wisdom.
The point is to pay attention when inspiration comes to you. Which ideas really resonate with you? Which needs move you to tears, or cause you to rise up with indignation?
When you recognize a need and realize its importance to you, can you believe that something can be done, that you can make a difference? This is important. If you believe that a situation is impossible to change or is too big, or you find yourself thinking “What can one person do?”, stop right there.
In this familiar quote, Margaret Mead says: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Historically, major positive social change has not come from government – it has come from grass roots movements of people like you and me.
So allow yourself to entertain the idea that nothing is impossible. Don’t even share your idea right away with people you know won’t encourage you. Open yourself up to the amazing possibilities.
If a situation has provoked anger, which many human rights violations are likely to do, listen to these wise words from writer Sue Monk Kidd: “The transfiguration of anger is a movement from rage to outrage. Rage implies an internalized emotion, a tempest within. Rage, or what might be called untransfigured anger, can become a calcified bitterness. What rage wants and needs is to move outward toward positive, social purpose, to become a creative force or energy that changes the conditions that created it. It needs to become out-rage”.
Make an intention that, in your own way, however small or great, you will do something to right a wrong, bring some help, fill a need, or be a blessing. Then wait a few days or weeks, and let creative ideas bubble up and make themselves known to you.
You may have some work to do – writing, speaking, petitioning, going out of your way to find fair trade products to purchase, volunteering to tutor children or work at a food shelf, providing humanitarian aid in another country, confronting discrimination in the workplace, or simply letting go of your pride and apologizing to someone.
Embrace the challenge – movement leads to more movement which leads to greater movement. You know, the snowball effect. When we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, where do we think this will come from?
It will come from the seeds God has planted inside each one of us, waiting on our recognition of them to birth something new into the world. A new way of thinking, loving, and living, not poisoned by fear, hate, greed, and ignorance.
It will come as yeast into bread dough – a small amount that expands until it changes a small lump of dough into a beautiful, fragrant loaf of bread.
It will come as each of us finds our truth, our birthright, our place in the kingdom.
I, for one, want to be part of a generation that at least starts this process for future generations.