Friday, September 13, 2013

Shall I go on?

The world is a mess.  Violence is everywhere.   Our education system is drowning, AIDS is spreading, children are starving, women are brutally raped, government is de-funding social service programs,  the elderly are uncared for, the sick can't get insurance, chemical weapons are being used on innocent people, women and children endure horrible domestic violence, prisons are overcrowded, churches are failing, there are wars in Africa, India and the Middle East, children are sold into sex trades, people are homeless, millions are refugees, the mentally ill are swept under the rug.

Shall I go on?

My mother always told me “you can’t save everyone, but you can always help at least one.”  

She worked in a soup kitchen for as long as I can remember.  She recognized the importance of feeding hungry people.  But she became frustrated that it was just a stopgap measure.  And so she founded  an organization called Family Aid which targeted one person - usually a woman with children who had just escaped from an abusive situation.  All resources were focused on providing first a safe place to live (usually our house temporarily) and basic necessities.  Then the woman was placed in a job (usually in my mother’s church)  where she learned office skills.  Child care was donated along with counseling.  And with the support of a community and financial help from Family Aid, the woman eventually got up on her own feet.    This organization had grown so much that at the time of my mother’s death, it had a Board of Directors and a very healthy endowment and helped dozens of families a year go from despair to hope.  And they then turned to help the next person to help.  So many of these women came to my mom’s memorial service and shook my hand and said “thank you.” I had no idea how many lives my mother touched.

Shall I go on?  Although I try to carry on her legacy, I will never be who my mother was.  But I do try.

I had a friend who suffered from depression which was made worse by the daily barrage of headlines and Facebook re-posts.  She would constantly subject herself to every tidbit of bad news and ugly politics and feel totally impotent in the face of it all.  What can one person possibly do?

In many southern states, the powers that be are rolling back women's rights and reproductive freedoms and educational funding.  New restrictive voter ID laws and less voting machines in certain districts are going to make it difficult for some people to vote in their own best interests.   How can they possibly change the system?  

My mother’s answer to them would be “go help one person to vote.”   Provide child care, provide food, provide whatever is necessary when these people have to wait hours to vote. Help one person and you can help change their world.  

There is very disturbing news coming out of Syria.  Videos of innocents children suffering horribly under the effect of chemical weapons.  And I think every parent looks at those images and thinks “that could be my child.”    Another blogger asked the question “what should we do?”

I am sure I could go insane thinking about the terror these people are facing.  In fact, I really cannot allow myself to think about it too much.  I know that short of trying to put loving, healing and peaceful energy out into the universe, I can do nothing to shape the course to political events in the Middle East.   However, Robert Kennedy wrote this:

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, misery, ignorance, and violence.  Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.”

I can do nothing to help those caught in the crossfire in Syria.  But I can help someone who has managed to escape.  There are over two million refugees now living in difficult, crowded and inadequate conditions far from their homes.  They have lost everything.  I had made a suggestion on that blog that if you are so inclined, UNICEF, along with other agencies are providing food and shelter for these refugees, as best they can.  

Shall I go on?

I could go on for days about the atrocities happening in this world and right in our own neighborhoods.  They have been happening since the beginning of time. It is easy to become depressed with the enormity of it all.  

Shall I go on?

Of course I shall.  Because the only way  to do something about EVERYTHING  is to do something about ONE thing.   

Robert Kennedy again:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Go out and help one other person.  Just one.   You never know how those tiny ripples of hope will impact the lives of others and possibly the world.  

“You can’t save everyone, but you can always help at least one.”


  1. I recently attended an interesting lecture about overcoming depression and inertia in the face of the world’s problems by engaging the problem. Whereas solving a problem takes massive resources and strategies and people who have power, engaging a problem only requires a small step and can be accomplished by anyone.

    For example, if the problem overwhelming you is poverty, then perhaps solving it looks like providing food, medical care, safety, shelter, and education to every person who needs it. Engaging the problem of poverty, however, could look like volunteering for a literacy program or collecting pajamas and distributing them to kids in homeless shelters.

    There are many people today who make symbolic gestures (writing a check, changing a Facebook profile picture) which is a one-sided message about the problem. Engaging the problem requires actual interaction.

    It’s very empowering. A lesson both you and your mother have obviously learned well.

  2. One of the quotes I read after the Boston bombings was from Mister Rogers’s, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

    Thank you for caring and for being a helper.

  3. I hate the whiners and complainers. But you said it much more politely than I would.

  4. Beautiful post, and great comments as well, especially the Mr. Rodgers quote. Thank you for going on.

  5. "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And, I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." Edward Everett Hale

    What a wonderful woman your mother was - and what a wonderful woman you are.


  6. Thank you for these wonderful quotes and comments!