It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the ills of the world.
For years, I worked on efforts to end genocide in Darfur. Or, perhaps more accurately, I worked to raise awareness of genocide as a real problem. A problem that, perhaps, someone ought to do something about. People were dying.
We raised money for on-the-ground and advocacy organizations. We held events with survivors of genocides from the Armenian genocide to the present. We pointed to the dark history of humanity and the shameful inaction of our forefathers.
We questioned why there was always a reason for the U.S. not to get involved, for the world not to get involved.
There’s always a reason not to act.
But the people keep dying.
I’m reminded of that song by Simon and Garfunkel:
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
The borders of our lives.
Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said…
I long ago stopped engaging in anti-genocide work. I, like so many others, simply shake my head and heave the windy sigh.
I’ve moved on to other issues, other causes, other problems which also demand to be solved.
There are too many ills to take on them all.
And the dangling conversation remains the borders of our lives.
We each do our own work, focus on the accomplishable, perhaps, or simply tack into the wind for other causes. We each have our strategies for staying sane while we desperately try to bend the arc of the universe towards justice.
It is not easy work.
And there is always more work to do.
And there is always a reason not to act.
The best we can do, I think, is to constant question ourselves. To push to understand our own true goals an motivations.
When you throw up your hands and say, “well, what can be done?” are you genuinely too busy with other work or are you more or less comfortable with the status quo?
Do you genuinely think that nothing can change, or are you simply willing to accept things as they are?
You don’t have to announce your answer to the world, but you deserve to be honest with yourself.
There is too much work in this world, far too much, for any of us to do it alone.
No one person can do it all.
So forgive yourself for embracing some issues while being lukewarm on others, forgive yourself for preferring advocacy to direct service, or favoring one type of work for another.
Follow your strengths and your passions, but know there is always more work to be done.
And be skeptical of yourself when you find your dangling conversations, when you walk away from an issue rather than engage. There is only some much we can take on, sure, but we should push those borders back as far as possible.