Good 'ol Teddy Roosevelt, dropping some wisdom in that quote in the title.
The world seems heavy these days, right? Shootings. Political uproar. Division in communities. Extreme weather catastrophes. Hate. It's easy to feel hopeless, sad and unequipped. However, I'd also say it could be easy to feel a fiery passion ready to take on the world in advocating for justice and life in general. And perhaps, more frequently, it's particularly easy to ebb and flow between the two. A passion that lights and ignites desire to take action and unite, yet a hopelessness and sadness in not knowing where to start or how to make waves in such a lost and broken word. It all seems too much.
They say, "Pray for ______" when tragedy strikes. Pray for Paris. Pray for Las Vegas. Pray for Puerto Rico. Just pray. Prayer really works friends. I know this and I believe this from the depths of my soul. But, I also feel a big nudge when praying that God wants some action from me. Simply praying is not always enough--God equips all of us with abilities and gifts to help in these situations in some way---not just to sit idle and pray (though this is a great place to start!). Maybe it's pray and donate money. Or time. Or blood. Or a listening ear. A helpful hand. A phone call to congress. A march in the streets. A meal to a family in need. A courageous conversation. I feel that my God in all of His wisdom LOVES when we pray to Him and communicate our needs and praises and cries of dismay, but I also believe He LOVES when we use our God given abilities and resources to step up. Really, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are at. In all of its goodness, prayer is not always enough. I cannot pray for money and expect it to rain from the heavens, I need to pray for opportunities for God to give me so I may work in action towards gaining more financially. I cannot just pray for a healthy body, I need to put forth the steps and work to gain this through eating well, exercising, vitamins, mindfulness and generally just being safe and taking care of myself. The same goes for times of hurting, brokenness and a divided world. The key for praying, is not only praying for change, but to pray for opportunities along your path that help you to contribute to that change.
Friend, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the "if only's". If only I had _____ I could do more. I've caught myself filling in the blank with money. Time. Knowledge. Confidence. After the bombardment of negative news and feelings of hopelessness, I've decided to trade in my fill in the blanks with baby steps. Really, just steps of action that don't make big waves, but provide small, baby ripples in the pools of hurt. Doing what I can, with what I have, where I'm at. I'm not rich, I don't have loads of extra time, I'm not super smart, nor am I very confident. BUT, I do have some money, and some time, some smarts and some confidence. In using these God given gifts, I can still create action, change, progress and momentum towards a better world.
I feel one of my greatest avenues of doing this is my job. My job, can at times, feel hopeless and exhausting--much like the world we live in. Yet, it can also feel full to the brim of promise, hope and joy---because kids are truly amazing and resilient. I make a choice each day to go into my building praying for God to use me and give me opportunities to act in a way that might make and create positive change. This is not as hard as I tend to make it. It's a smile in the hallway--I'm always perplexed when I'm not offered a smile in exchange when passing someone. It's actually scientifically proven that smiling at someone increases their positivity and our mirror neurons pick up on it. It's forgiveness. Many of the kids I work with are not always afforded full forgiveness after they have harmed their community. When I offer unyielding and grace filled forgiveness, I can create change in that little being. It's putting my money where my mouth is. I'm rich in comparison to much of the world, yes, but we also have times where we scrape by holding our breath until the next payday. Yet, I still always feel I can never turn down the opportunity to donate a few bucks here or there or use our money in ways that can help a student have a meal for the night, gas in their car or heat in their home. It's listening. Whether to my students, colleagues or parents, it's amazing what kind of magic happens when people feel heard and validated. It's loving. Hugs go a long way with kids--I used to be afraid to hug kids or let them hug me (what might people think--gasp!), but hugging and physical affection is an innate human need. To give a child a hug, squeeze, high five, fist bump or secret handshake, I can be filling a need they have to carry them a little further in their day. I will never turn down a hug from a student. It's these little things that can add up because these little people are going to grow up into big people and using my power of influence in these developmental years, I better believe my presence in their lives is important to the future of our citizens. Pair those little actions up with things that may take a little more money, time, knowledge and confidence, I can actually create change--not needing to measure the change by how large and grandiose my actions are, but by the seeds I plant and abilities I utilize throughout my day.
It's amazing what positive change can come out of doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
I have a friend. A generous, loving and talented friend that chose to share an idea with our staff to provide comfort and joy for a grieving community by bringing them some treats to uplift their spirits. So simple. This friend used her God given ability of baking and serving others in kindness to unite a group of people that are overcome with emotion from a recent horrific situation. She did what she's really awesome at with what she had, and where she is at and it created a huge ripple of positive change, not only in the recovering community, but our own school community as well.
Praying is great. I love it. Its effective, powerful and Holy. But it's not always enough. I think this is where God wants us to start, but not where he wants us to end.
What abilities and gifts are you equipped with?
Do what you can. Not, do it all. Not, do everything. Not, do more than everyone else. Not, do what she/ he is doing. Nope, do what you can.
With what you have. Not, driving yourself broke. Not, being ashamed of what you don't have. Not, striving to have more. Simply, use what you've got.
Where you are. Not where you think you should be. Not where you wish to be. Not even where you once were. No, where you are.
It's ok to not have all the answers. It's also ok to act and just do something in the midst of being not sure of what to do. We need to use our abilities to DO more than just pray. They all work for the power of good and they are ALL necessary and important to create change in our communities. As the old proverb states, "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion"
So tomorrow, when you wake up and are overcome by the depth of our world's' brokenness and need for peace. Don't feel hopeless, overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Pray for God to give you opportunities to use your gifts and just start to use them. Don't worry about how big or small your actions are, but about how you are using what you have and what that looks like for you. Really begin to realize that you were born to use these abilities you have---you were BORN for this, friend! No pressure, right? At times, it may require some stepping out of your comfort zone, but what at times may feel uncomfortable for you, may in fact be one of the things that bring healing comfort to those around you.
Don't lose faith friends, the world's healing and peace lies in each one of us--ready to be ignited by God, not just from our prayers, but our actions as well.
Do what you can. With what you have. Where you are.