It seems hard sometimes not be be overwhelmed by all the need in the world. There are so many issues and so much social injustice, it seems to me a person could lose his mind (or become hopelessly resigned) if he tries to engage all of them.
There is also the problem of short attention spans. It’s common for the world (or a community) to be motivated to action by some dramatic or spectacular occurence (such as the Haitian earthquake or a massacre at a school) only to lose interest over time, as new dramatic or spectacular events occur. We have seen that happen with Haiti, as we predicted it would.
When something you feel very strongly about captures the public’s attention, it is exciting. When the public later forgets about it and moves on to the next big thing, it is frustrating.
But, to be fair, we’re all prone to do it and in truth there is just too much suffering and too many injustices to be fully informed and engaged with all of them.
So what to do?
I read this post on the Relevant Magazine site and it resonated with me. Part of the author’s advice was to “specialize” in a cause. That is, choose an issue that means a lot to you and make that your focus. Ideally you will feel that you are in some sense intended to make that cause your work. That is to say, it is your calling.
I’m trying to take that advice. For me, it seems that my calling is to challenge our industrial food system, to try to offer an alternative to it and in so doing to contribute to improving the health of our community.
That doesn’t mean I won’t engage other issues and causes. But it does mean I’m going to try to stay focused, doing the best I can to make a difference in the world. I think it’s possible to stay aware of many issues, and to be passionate about them. But for most of us mortals it’s not realistic to expect to make a meaningful difference in the world on more than one or two. At least that’s what I’ve been feeling lately. Any different thoughts on this subject would be very welcome.