Whenever I log in to Facebook or load a news website—or when I glance at the newsrack at the checkout—it seems there are always some really ugly things going on, and I find myself oscillating between anger and despair.
As I scroll through my social media feeds, there are comments like, “This is so sad!” or “I hate that this is happening!” While I agree with those statements, I can’t help but feel that they’re a bit useless. How does saying that we dislike catastrophic issues help the people whose lives are being turned upside down because of them?
But what can I do? Do I pack up a large first-aid kid and head off to a war zone? Do I open my home to homeless families? Do I put up a video on YouTube exposing the nastiness of bullying? How can I actually make a difference?
I think this is sort of a universal question that mankind has been asking for millennia now: What are we supposed to do about all the horrible stuff that happens in the world?
Some people take the approach of not knowing and not caring. They don’t follow the news; they block out all the problems and loop the “Everything is Awesome” song track through their head all day long.
Others figure that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and it’s okay to trample on someone else, because if you don’t, they may trample on you.
There are also people who just conclude, in despair, that it’s all a waste of time. This life is misery. Why try to help anyone? It won’t make any difference.
I’ve given this a lot of thought of late, as it’s something I have to make peace with. I don’t want to live in fear, ignorance, and depression regarding the world and where it’s headed.
So in my seeking, I looked to the life of Jesus. In ancient Palestine where He lived, there were plenty of problems, many of them the same problems we face today—poverty, sickness, suffering, oppression, cruelty, and indifference.
Jesus responded by helping those around Him each and every day. He healed, encouraged, blessed, and made whole. In turn those blessed, healed people went out and spread the joy, the good news, and the blessing. And those they blessed and encouraged probably turned around and did the same for someone else. And this ripple effect of Jesus’ life continues today.
Even if you can’t change everything, then at least do something. Be kind. Be a light. Be a bright spot in a dark world. Keep caring.
Treat each person you interact with every day as an opportunity to share something beautiful. Talk to the cashier, smile at the other parents picking up their kids from school, thank the teacher, the policeman, the mailman, or the server. Be gracious with the homeless lady on the street corner.
And go a step further by being generous as well. Imagine how different a place the world would be if each person was like that.
Neither you nor I may be able to make a difference to the whole world, but we can make a huge difference in the little bit of world that surrounds us. When we’re kind to someone, and they turn around and are kind to the next person, the ripples of those actions can reach around the world!
So my conclusion is that while there may be problems in the world that I cannot do much about, there’s usually someone or something right in front of me that needs my help. There, I can make a difference, and I will try my best to keep being someone who cares.
When I can help in a big way, I will help in a big way. When I can help in a small way, I will help in a small way. And regardless of how I help, I will remember Jesus’ words: “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”1
One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.
—John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)
If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed one.
—Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.
—Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
I just wish people would realize that anything is possible if you try. Dreams are made if people try.
—Terry Fox (1958–1981)
It’s amazing what God can do with what seems so small; like you and I!
—John M. Sheehan
1. Matthew 25:40 CEV