I want to change the world.
When I was a kid I’d see those Sally Struthers commercials for the Christian Children Fund, and would cry. The idea that there were so many people suffering killed me, and even at a young age, I understood the magnitude of global hunger.
Children were starving to death, and there was nothing I could do about it.
My high school required all of its students to volunteer as part of their yearly academic requirements. They were trying to raise the future leaders of America, and believed that service to others makes you a better human being.
When I was a sophomore I volunteered at an armory which had been turned into a homeless shelter/soup kitchen. It was clear that the man who ran the program loved what he did, and that his enthusiasm was a bright spot in the day of the people he served.
An older man who had showed up to volunteer asked the manager how he did it.
“How do I do what?”
“This place is a reminder of poverty in our country. You’ve got to know that you’re only one person trying to solve a huge problem.”
“I’m just doing my part. I can’t do it all, but I can do my part.”
That made a huge impact on me. I can’t do it all, but I can do my part.
My parents are incredibly generous people. They’ve worked very hard for the life they have, but haven’t let it distort their view of the world. They understand that there are people out there struggling.
They always reinforced the idea that because we can help, we should help. Whether it’s money or time, it’s important for us to do something, anything. I’ve taken that with me into adulthood.
Fast forward many years, and the magnitude of the world’s problems is still pretty overwhelming. Poverty, sex trafficking, mental illness, addiction, natural disasters, AIDS, homelessness, domestic violence, animal abuse. Where does someone even start?
I have to start with my small portion of the world, and hope the ripple effect is taking place. I need to do something, anything.
I can’t fix homelessness, but I can buy gloves and socks at the dollar store, and pass them out to people I see on the street. I can’t fix domestic violence, but I can paint a women’s shelter so that battered women have a safe, inviting place to go. I can’t fix poverty, but I can donate canned goods to the local food pantry.
I am reminded of this because Friday is normally the day when I go around doing random things for strangers. Maybe it’s buying a drink for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop, or leaving a note of encouragement in self-help books at the library.
I don’t believe someone needs to be destitute before they need a little help.We all need it from time to time.
With the holidays looming, I know we’re all reminded of those less fortunate. Those who can’t eat, those who can’t afford presents for their children, those who can’t fly home and see their families.
Please don’t be overwhelmed. Buy one bag of rice, and donate it. Sit with an elderly person who hasn’t seen his/her family in years. Skip your routine coffee run, and put that money towards disaster victims. Leave a “you’re not alone” note it in a book meant for people coping with loneliness.
We can’t do it all, but we can do our part.