I can always tell when I’m overloaded with the news; that’s when I start to despair. So much mess to clean up. It seems ridiculously tangled-up and tiresome, painful to look at.
In my own state we are attempting to disentangle from newly passed legislation designed to show my GLBT brothers and sisters that we are not welcome. Elsewhere, of course, there’s worse news. In Kenya suicide bombers caused untold anguish. In California the drought is now so severe that the governor mandated water restrictions. Then there’s the German pilot who decided to fly a planeful of people into the side of a mountain. For what?
Time to turn off NPR. When I get overwhelmed, this timeless advice from theologian Howard Thurman is a comfort:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Definitely the needs of the world are bottomless, and the conflicts seem never-ending. So this question is a good barometer, an antidote to paralysis: What renews my heart? For me it is things like making meaning, being of service in small ways, reflecting, putting some hard-won learnings to use for others.
Sometimes, though, all that seems ever so small, and the question becomes: How do we renew ourselves, in this season of renewal, to continue with our chosen work?
Then a member of my extended family gives me a tremendous gift. She tells me that she regularly shares my reflections with her four teenagers. Some years back when I coauthored a book called Sudden Spirit: A Book of Holy Moments, she started the tradition of reading aloud from this work and discussing it with her children. Now that the kids are older, she’ll print thought-provoking blog posts and passages (mine among them) and ask them to initial when they’ve read them.
You can bet I was touched when I heard that! (And maybe she had told me before but I forgot; sometimes it’s hard for me to receive stuff like this.)
Knowing this totally refuels me. Because so much of what I do is basically invisible, it’s hard to know what kind of impact I’m having. But apparently, my little musings are helping the next generation of leaders.
Note to self: Remember to tell people I appreciate their work! (I think I’ll start with Roy Ballard and Michael Morrow, the men behind Hoosier Harvest Market. This online virtual farmers market brings me lovely salad greens, eggs, quail eggs, apples and so on—all locally grown and delivered to order to a business near my home.)
Because maybe it’s less a matter of renewing ourselves than renewing each other. Maybe then we can remember what exactly it is that makes us come alive, and have the courage to pursue it. Who in your life could use some of that fuel?