There it is, smack between a picture of my friend’s new baby and a tutorial on cake pops. Tragedy. Every. Damn. Day. Another shooting, either of an unarmed black man, a police officer, or a toddler from an unsecured handgun. Another bombing, Dhaka (actually at a close friend’s family’s cafe), Baghdad (There hundred people. I feel short of breath), Turkey. All this after the still fresh wound, a cleaver to the bone really, of Orlando.
I have to review my feed to even remember all of the horrors that have stacked up like a 40 car collision over the past few weeks. And I am at a loss. How do we find hope in the storm of terrible that rages in our world?
It all seems so insurmountable, unceasing. What is one person going to do?
But I can’t do nothing. I have kids now. I can’t just throw up my hands and say, you deal with it, next gen.
Find Hope in the Storm by Focusing on One Front
So here’s what I do. I pick one thing and run with it. Or against it, however you want to look at it. But I just pick one. I support the efforts of all of the reformers, warriors for peace on all fronts, but I have learned that I need to focus.
In Trying to Fix Everything, You Fix Nothing
When I was a teenager, I was so upset and angry about all of the injustices — Gulf War I, the death penalty, Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, the harsh and overcrowded prison system — that I tried to fix them all.
I helped organize a walkout of my junior high class against the Gulf War. My arm sported a black band to commemorate Cobain. I railed against the death penalty to anyone who would listen in a decidedly pro-death penalty town.
It was exhausting and not particularly productive. The second I’d gain some traction on one issue, I’d be distracted by the seeming emergency of another tragic issue. I’d immediately lose any gains by trying to put out a different fire.
It was just crushing emotionally. I felt every loss so deeply, and it felt like I was alway losing. It is very hard to maintain forward momentum on any issue when you keep making lateral moves.
Actively Contributing to Progress on One Issue Gives Me Hope For All The Other Issues
Once I hit college and law school I realized I had to pick one issue or I’d burn out completely.
The death penalty was my issue. I read everything I could about it. I wrote articles. I volunteered at law clinics for death penalty cases. It was immensely satisfying. I was competent, knowledgeable, and contributing to the demise of what I feel is a horrific practice.
An unintended side effect was that I was more able to deal with other tragic news. I could bear witness to it and support its problem-solvers. I didn’t have to hide from it because I was so overwhelmed. I was actively cleaning up my small corner of the world the best I could.
Pick Your “Thing” And Take Action
My one issue has evolved since college but my method is the same. I join activist groups. I call my members of congress and support candidates who support me. Of course, I research everything I can about my issue so I am informed when discussing the issue with folks. I phone bank. I sign petitions. I post to Facebook.
I do what I can, small or large, and take heart that I am doing my best. I also pray. That helps me. But I don’t just pray, and honestly, that helps me more.
Contribution to your community is key for finding fulfillment and lasting happiness. It’s how we build a good life.
You don’t have to do all of these things. Maybe talking on the phone gives you hives (I think I may have broken out myself.) Send money. Maybe you don’t have money to send. Knock on doors. Volunteer for your group. Write letters.
The point is to do something, anything, but with focus so you don’t feel pulled under by the storm. Then when you’re sad, disheartened, or outraged by the news, you have an action to take to feel a little more hopeful. It’s helped me tremendously over the years. I hope it does the same for you.
How do you find hope in the storm? Are you paralyzed or activated by the stream of terrible news?
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