I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately by the brokenness of the world.
I’ve been subscribed for awhile to get daily email news briefings from the New York Times, and lately I find myself feeling a knot in my stomach as I open them, steeling myself knowing that what I read will be more bad news – natural disasters and ethnic cleansing and sexual assault and threats of mass deportation. It feels like there is this darkening cloud, this smog, of hatred and racism and assault and abuse of power and lies and deceit that gets thicker and darker and more depressing every day. It’s enough to make me just want to jump ship from the Times and binge watch cute kiddo videos on YouTube instead.
But I want to be an informed citizen and I want to know what’s going on in the world so I read. I read and I feel angry and sad and discouraged and it also feels a bit surreal – how are we going to look back on this time 20 years from now? What am I going to tell my kids about what life was like in 2018?
In a parallel track, I’m still living my daily life, and in many ways it looks the same as it always has – I’m still working and running and baking cookies and spending time with friends and going to church. Every once in awhile I read the news and I think “What the heck am I doing? People are being threatened with deportation, families torn about, racial epithets strewn about, man after man being exposed as a sexual predator – and I’m answering emails and training for a half marathon and planning my summer vacation.” Sometimes it feels like this insurmountable divide between the world “out there” and my daily life.
I don’t like it.
I don’t like it and I’ve been thinking about ways to bridge that gap, to step beyond my comfortable, privileged, protected daily life and connect to the heartache and suffering of a world that is reeling in pain right now, of people who are reeling in pain. One option, I know, is to “go nuclear” and just blow up my life – quite my job, leave San Francisco, work at a non-profit or be a full-time community organizer or live in a remote village somewhere.
I’m not saying that’s a bad option, and maybe there’s a season for that but right now, for me, I know that level of extremity is not what I’m being called to.
I think what I’m being called to – which is murkier and less defined- is finding ways to bridge the gap between my daily, comfortable life, and the pain of the world. To figure out how to keep the structure, the foundation, that is my job and my city and my church and my community – all things I am profoundly grateful for – and also reach out beyond them to connect w/ the needs of the world around me.
Joining the Women’s March last weekend felt like way to do that. Volunteering at City Hope in the Tenderloin feels like a way to do that. Taking the time to look in the eyes of and smile and say thank you to the people I see everyday – the woman who cleans our bathrooms at work, the security guard in our building – feels like a way to do that.
My dad had a paperweight on his desk that now sits on my nightstand with a quote by Mother Teresa – “Do no great things, only small things with great love.” I think that, in many ways, is the answer. I think God scatters all sorts of opportunities in our lives – like brightly colored Easter eggs peeking out from our daily routines – opportunities to love and encourage and uplift the people around us. Opportunities to make them feel seen and known and valued. Opportunities to speak up for justice, to defend the oppressed and make sure those with less privilege than us aren’t getting trampled.
I’m going to be on the lookout for those opportunities that God has already placed in my life and also set out to go find some beyond my comfort zone. I’m going to work day by day to bridge the gap between the relative comfort of my life and the chaos of the world, with compassion, empathy and love. And I’m going to remind myself that I believe with all my heart in a big God who is holding this broken, beautiful world together with love, and that no matter how dark things may seem, the light shines brighter than the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.