We live in a time when burn out for people who really care is an increasing risk, an increasing likelihood. If you care about the homeless and the housing crisis in California, if you care about our immigrant brothers and sisters, if you care about people of color, people of faith traditions other than Christianity, if you know any women (and we all do, whether we are aware of it or not), or even men, who’ve been assaulted: if you care about the “least of these” as we are called to do every single day; if it bothers you that we live in a society that manifests increasing apathy towards those who have suffered and even condones violence towards those who are already knocked down then this is a hard time to be active and engaged in our world. If you take seriously the call to love your neighbor as yourself and therefore are able to have compassion for people who are different that you are; if you remember that all of us are God's children, and that by corollary, all of us are siblings to one another; if you are aware therefore that the suffering people are people we are both deeply connected to and called to love like our biological siblings; if you care about the increasing division and growing irreconcilable differences between people in our country, in our communities, and even in our families; if you see meanness and are affected by the lack of simple courtesy and kindness towards strangers, then this is a hard time to keep going with hope and purpose and conviction that we can make the world a better place.
Of course we hear about things we can do to counter this: focus on gratitude, name five things for which you are thankful each day; make sure that you have room for play in your life; take breaks from the struggles; exercise; laugh; sing. But there is one other thing that can really help. In the midst of the daily struggles, sometimes the choice to do or be part of service that helps others (or even just one other) at this moment, now, with a real problem they are having - this choice in itself can bring healing, can bring a tiny and reassuring sense that we can and do make a difference, a glimpse into the possibilities for genuine change and healing that can be brought on by people who care no matter what else is going on in the world. Find a place to help. Donate to a food bank, give school supplies, help serve meals, be part of a shelter program, donate to other organizations that make a difference. Or, join in, give to, and work with organizations that create more permanent long term healing and change for people who are down and out: a new job training program, an education program, tutoring and care for disadvantaged children and youth, be part of a permanent low income housing program. Yes, advocacy will always be of prime and extreme importance so that deep problems and issues can be confronted before they become monumental traumas and tragedies. But being involved in a program that is not dependent on the politics of the day, but is simply dependent on our time, energy, resources and dedication and that really touches and changes lives: this can be healing not just for those served, but for our tired and frustrated souls as well. Truly, we are called, as we are called into any caring work, to do this as much for our own souls, our own minds, our own spirits as we are for others. I am grateful there are programs and opportunities out there for this kind of service. They give me the strength and renewal to continue to work for advocacy too.