What happened in Paris on Friday is horrible. What happens around the world every day is horrible. There seems to be a never-ending carousel of new conflicts, new groups committing themselves to terror and violence and new hate.
There’s something out there just as bad. Apathy. It might not be as bad, but I sure hope I have your attention. And if I have your attention it is probably because somewhere in the back of your mind there are slight pangs of guilt that you’ve managed to keep quiet for a while because you’ve fed them with the social media monster.
“Hark!” You might say. “I have done my part. I changed my Facebook profile picture to the Tricolore. I’ve shared memes supporting refugees to my friends. I’ve posted videos of news broadcasters condemning the hate, the acts of terrorism.”
That’s great. You’re the people I want to talk to. I can see you’re already convinced there’s more that can be done. Now I need you to one more thing for me. Okay three more things. Get off your couch. Go out your front door. Make that difference you’ve been preaching about on Facebook.
Yep. It is that simple. Please stop saying you wish you could change the world for your children and grant your own wishes. Because they can come true if we all work together.
“How?” you might say. “I don’t have time. I work full time, my time is already stretched as it is.” And in return I ask “How many hours a week do you spend watching television, drinking wine? Going out with friends on the weekend?” If something is a priority, you will make time for it. In fact, gather your friends together, find a cause you all support and go out and take action together.
You don’t have to make it a daily, weekly or even monthly commitment but one off things make a difference too.
Want to make Muslims in your community feel more welcome? Interact with them.
Arrange a visit to a mosque, talk with Muslims and learn about Islam. Ask engaging questions and keep your mind open. Keep your judgements to yourself and you might learn something. Bring your kids with you. Show them that people with other beliefs aren’t scary and are people with as much capacity to love and do good in the world as anyone else.
Are you one of these people who argues against supporting refugees because your country already can’t support its veterans, its homeless or its education system?
Great! I want to talk to you too.
If the fact that your government supports refugees bothers you, then get involved in government. Though I’m betting some of the people you’ll meet along the way might change your mind to them being unworthy of your help.
If veterans matter to you, great! Go and support your veterans. Find some veterans in the community you could befriend and go visit. Sometimes all people need is a gentle voice, a kind hand and something to look forward to. Kindness is as simple as asking someone how they are, genuinely listen to their response and share a cup of coffee or tea with them.
Is homelessness a cause you care about? Great! Go to a homeless shelter and learn about the issues surrounding homelessness. Get involved. Homeless people need someone to listen to them too. And you will learn why homelessness is a more complex issue than just giving people a house or a job.
Don’t throw money at the situation. Give your time. Money grows on trees compared to time. Time is so valuable. And I get why you’re loath to give it. So find what matters to you most, start small and go for it. If we all did this, the results would be unimaginable.
An apt quote (often misattributed to Mother Teresa) is “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Now is as good a time to act as any. Take that rage, that indignation, that sadness and turn it into positive action. Go out there and start living with great love.