I am loafing in an enjoyably warm, peaceful summer. Were it not for politics, war and my awareness of the inequity and poverty in our own neighborhoods, I would say I was content. But how can I be grateful for status or the wealth of my choices without the guilt that so many others suffer? There is no end of the need for us to be doing as much as we can to influence or correct these ugly realities.
The balance is very difficult to keep. Since Jan. 20, 2017 we get no help from a president who daily cries wolf. Nor freedom from wars and rumors of wars. In an “all hands on deck” mode, who is selfish enough to think our desires could come first?
And for us whose sympathies lie with the least, the last and the left out, who may also be tired, aged, ill or disabled so that, regardless what we do in our prime or what our lasting true gifts are, we do not have energy for the fight against the outrageous, heartbreaking need all around? My heart truly aches for the suffering. I do name them in my prayers. But is that enough?
Eventually, even the best known activists among us take time out. Some shift to mentoring, urging our younger, abler sisters and brothers to find their own passions among those who lack necessities like clean water, healthful groceries, ethical police, and children on our streets day and night.
We can do only what we can do, whatever it is, with God’s help. We plant seeds, water them, and every day, do what we can to lighten these burdens. We cannot “fix” homelessness, but we can decrease its numbers and improve our services. We cannot “fix” the juvenile justice system but we can continue to lobby for compassion and restorative justice. One of these priorities may exactly be your call.
We can imagine the realm of god, what it could look like, and talk about it, pray for it, and nurture faith and hopefulness. But we don’t have to work until we drop. Thomas Merton counsels us not to commit [ourselves] to too many projects, and thus succumb to violence….He continues, The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. [Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander]
Discerning between our rush to help and our need for nurture is our primary, ongoing call. Not to decide is, of course, ironically, to decide. But to rush in every direction at once is to stall immediately. To put ourselves forward as helpers when we don’t have the mental, emotional or physical resilience, is to offer little.
Let’s lighten up and take in some love, friendship, summer laziness, sleeping in or staying up late, and visit the Science Center or a museum or two…not to mention parks, before this gorgeous summer again turns to rain. The world, the nations, and difficult people are always with us.