The “pain of the world” that we can do something about

I loved writing yesterday’s post and also wanted to dive a little deeper into the issue of what “bad news” that we should be aware of. When I am called to do something, whether it be rescue an animal, send in a donation (to an organization that is doing work that I support), or return or make a call to someone who is not doing well, the Grace of God is also there, and I can feel this energy supporting and “helping” me, help others.

It is when I think that every world problem is my own (or that none of them are), every stray cat is mine to take care of (or I ignore one that has shown up on my doorstep), that every hurting person I see needs my personal attention (or I ignore the call meant for me), that I get out of balance. It is a case of my ego thinking that I am so important that I must be involved in all the ills of the world, or so fragile that I must hide.

The knowing around this; when to step in and get involved, and when not to, has come over time, by listening to, and following (or not!), my own inner voice (the still, small voice of God, my intuition). I have made plenty of mistakes; became involved in things when I could clearly feel that I shouldn’t have, let my head and emotions talk me into it, followed the thought that to be a good person, I must give in places where I really didn’t want to, but was afraid of appearing uncaring; was more concerned with my “image” than with my sense of inner integrity.

I have also gotten involved when, if I had thought about it, my mind would have talked me right out of it. A number of years ago, I was at a football game and 2 guys got into a fist fight. I noticed this because a crowd had gathered. I was shocked by the fight, but more by the idea that people were just watching. I walked into the middle and yelled “Stop it!”….and they did! I know now that the Spirit moved me, in that moment, to get involved. I can certainly imagine the same scenario where the feeling would be, “Don’t get within 20 feet of those guys, just call the police.”..and I would honor that too.

We are not here to save the world, and we are not here to ignore it either….service to others is one of the greatest gift that we can give ourselves, but only when it comes from the heart.

24 thoughts on “The “pain of the world” that we can do something about

  1. Mary – I love this post and your explanation of when to get involved and when to walk away. There is one other thought that I want to add to this discussion. I know that it’s hard to watch what’s going on in the world right now because it seems overwhelming and depressing. On the other hand, if we stick our heads in the sand and refuse to pay attention, then whatever the outcome is, we will end up feeling powerless and angry. So, I do maintain an awareness of what is in the news and when the spirit moves me, I let those people we elected know how I feel about it. Otherwise, all they will hear are the voices of those who disagree with me. I believe that each individual voice can make a difference, and that we are so lucky to live somewhere where we can express ourselves. Like it or not, we are all in this together and we will get through it if we all keep helping each other.

  2. Yesterday I was tired and felt out of balance. I wasn’t ill, but felt out of sorts and wanting what’s been called a ‘mental health day’ to reboot my system. My schedule called for a full day of being present with people to listen and support and I was doubting myself and felt afraid of being too self involved to give my full attention. I took a deep breath, turned the dilemma over to Spirit, and ended up in my car going to work. It was a beautiful morning and I began to enjoy the commute, with music on the radio and a sense of quiet peace creeping into my body and mind. To sum it all up, everything I did seemed easy and I had really good day.
    I don’t know why I’m here, but I’m sure it’s not to save the world. I think the message was to just show up and trust that I can do what’s right in front of me and that will be enough.

  3. The little kindnesses that are done in secret (green beans left in a mailbox), the poor widow with her coin, prayer in silence, mean so much more than a huge donation that is splashed across the news. If we do the best we can with what we have been given, no matter how great or small, our heart is in the right place.

    • Your take on this is just beautiful, Deb. The whole concept, as you have expressed it, feels so right. Thank you for adding your thoughts. Your post made a difference to me today.

  4. Deb, you said that so well. We are called on to give when and as we can, and to be aware of the voice of the spirit within us to be discerning. I’m reminded of the story of the beached starfish: “it matters to that one,” is the response to “you can’t save them all” when it gets tossed back into the ocean. Thank you for this post, Mary. It’s timely as usual.

  5. Ah, there’s the rub: to know when to act and when to refrain. You’ve described a dilemma I know well and my inner voice doesn’t always give clear signals about which is the right choice.

    I’d like to share a portion of a prose poem I wrote some years ago. In it, a woman from one culture is explaining to a woman of a different culture the ways they are alike:

    “Both of us know the yearnings of a woman’s heart:
    the joys, the costs
    of being wife, mother, grandmother;
    the risk in standing steadfast
    against hostility and wrong.

    “Still, when our lives are nearly spent,
    we’ll wonder if we’ve done enough.”

    • Your poem has captured me so completely, Jean, that I’m going to copy it into a book I keep of sayings, lyrics, special writings, etc. I turn to this book when I need either joy or thoughtfulness in my life. Your last line, as Susan A. mentioned, will stay with me….a simple line but so gorgeously expressive.

      Thank you for sharing this.

      • Thank you for that lovely compliment, Suzanne, There’s more to the poem, but it’s full of specific cultural references whereas this portion is more general in tone. It expresses exactly how I feel in my 78th year.

  6. Jean, that’s a beautiful poem you wrote. That last line will stay with me today. As I was reading Mary’s post and the comments, the words of Ecclesiastes resounded in my memory “For everything there is a season”. I also love the following quote and wonder if anyone knows who wrote it:

    “Just bloom where you are planted.”

    Indeed, we cannot be everywhere at once or eliminate all the sadness others suffer in this weary world, but we can bloom, right where we are planted. And that makes all the difference in the world.

    • I did a Google search and found that The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is credited with the quote, “bloom where you are planted.” Later painter Mary Engelbreit made it popular.
      Jean

      • Thank you Jean for looking that up for us – I knew I had seen it on a greeting card once, but didn’t think it was a “hallmark original” type of quote. Now I know. Wise ol’ fellow~

  7. As I read the daily posts, I find myself filtering my thoughts through a variety of philosophies that I have studied and utilized. My first comment reflects the Recovery International (http://www.lowselfhelpsystems.org/) philosophy – “We learn to spot our over-exaggerated sense of responsibility and to spot our limitations and we endorse our efforts not the end results.”

    My second comment reflects learnings from the Enneagram – A type Two will focus on the needs of others to the detriment of taking care of themselves.

    My third comment comes from The Course in Miracles – it is metaphysical – and the things “out there” are an illusion – they are projections.

    My fourth contribution is a YouTube video about “Stop It.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYLMTvxOaeE)

    Ram Dass talks about “serve, serve, serve.” (or something like that)

    The Serenity Prayer certainly comes to mind:
    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
    Courage to change those things I can and
    Wisdom to know the difference.

    Well, that is lots to ponder on.
    Enjoy the sunshiny day.

  8. My youngest daughter returns Tuesday from a 2 month solo tour of Europe, a life-long ambition that she worked very hard to make happen. She has been keeping us apprised with her very own blog, subtitled A California Girl, European at Heart. Her travelog is brimming with wonderful experiences (and only minor bumps in the road) from everywhere she’s been.
    She has visited almost every country that we have been seeing erupt in turmoil in the newspapers over this summer. Needless to say, it’s been a challenge for me NOT to worry—misuse of imagination!–about her, but the juxtaposition of her words vs. the daily fear drone has been such a wonderful lesson to me to not succumb to the “pain of the world”.
    As donkey Simon’s sidekick 🙂 so eloquently reminds us: open, open, OPEN our hearts to all the glory that surrounds us.
    Deb, you put it so succinctly. Thank you!

  9. Mary, once again you’ve struck the right chord. Thank you for giving us all the “food” we need.

  10. Through our disconnect as a society, all too often we don’t get involved. When moved or called, we should answer that. It allows us to touch others in a very special way and for us to be moved as well.

    I loved your last line & reposted it on FB. Great positivity to send out for the day~

  11. I just looked at this free download (have not listened yet). Each week this site gives a free download; they are on Facebook. It is called Better Listen.com. Here is the link – the title (A Kabbalistic Approach to Fixing the World) dovetails with the topic of Augusut 13. “http://shop.betterlisten.com/products/a-kabbalistic-approach-to-fixing-the-world-by-shlomo-carlebach

  12. Does this mean I have to stop waiting for my BFM? (Big Fucking Medal) The one I want pinned on my chest for my selfless acts and working, working, working to become enlightened? (It’s big and blue, like a State Fair First Place ribbon, with gold lettering.) If there is no BFM at the end of the road, then am I invisible? Do I count? Does it all matter?

    Rationally I know it does, and I resonate with all the comments. But I am standing up today and showing you my imperfection, that underneath it all I am somewhat horrified to find that often my motivations are to get that recognition in the end.

    (shaking head)

    Lord, help me laugh at myself today, and be gentle with my imperfect self.

    • Aw shucks, Betsy. When you use dashes everybody knows what’s missing anyhow. If a word expresses how you feel, use it. We’re all grownups here.

    • I don’t think that we are a bunch that gets offended by a little “language” Betsy! I feel like we are a gutsy group….I thought it was funny and was intended to be taken that way.

  13. Hi, I have been away on vacation hence the lateness in reading this post. I returned to find myself overcome with anger, grief, and a feeling of helplessness over an issue brought to attention via the newspaper concerning the “gentle people’s” miususe of their animals, specifically their horses. The intense heat has found animals struggling with pulling plows, carriages, and being tied to hitching posts until they literally fell to the ground with heat exhustion. I wrote a letter the the editor in response to one such report, and today another woman wrote saying that we can write all we want,but something needs to be done through the township supervisors. What religion believes that animals were put on earth to serve man without being fed properly, treated medically, and housed properly? Does “dominion over the animals” really mean that? I am so tempted to ask, “What is the matter with these people?” And then I thought, “What is the matter with the rest of us that we allow this in our public community?” The Amish represent a great tourist attraction in Lancaster, PA. They are also famous for the heinous puppy mills that I have advocated against. What good do words do when those in power to take action send placating letters back with “thanks for sharing your feelings.” I do feel powerless. Those letters of mine are preaching to the choir. I can’t save the world, but I do want to help those creatures that live in my “backyard.” I came to your blog via Jon Katz whom I have read and listened to for several years now. Thank you for all your wonderful sharings, especially the one about “take the love and through the corn away!”

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