I watch the national news on tv sometimes though, though rarely, because there are too many commercials. I hear the news on the radio at least once most days, and read the news stories online that catch my attention. I’d never go without a local newspaper. I like to listen to As It Happens on weeknights on CBC radio, where a co-host calls around the world and talks to people involved in events that are occurring right now. I have a clue what’s going on. I’m interested and I care.
Another woman has been killed by a man she knew, a former lover who terrorized her when she chose not to be with him anymore. There is nothing new in that scenario; it keeps on happening. It makes me want to scream. Why can we not stop this?
A man with cancer, who took it on with as much humour as he could muster, has died. Everywhere you turn, cancer is killing someone. If it hasn’t taken someone you love yet, just wait. It will. Maybe you.
And bullying, not only by children but by adults too, and not just in other places but right here at home in our workplaces. Extreme poverty. Addictions. And pollution. Environmental disaster. Rape. Genocide. War. Injustice. You look around and wonder what is wrong with people. Why do these things keep happening? And what is my part? Is there something I can do to change any of it?
Some people will write pieces clarifying the state of affairs; once in a blue moon they even offer solutions rather than just pointing out the stupidity of others. Some will involve themselves in politics or activism, intending to make an impact somehow rather than accept the status quo or do nothing. Many donate cash, which they spent their time earning, to worthy causes. Huge numbers of people step out in their own communities and volunteer, doing what they can to improve situations locally, regionally, nationally, internationally. All are ways of feeling less powerless, less helpless against what feel like overwhelming odds; they are doing something.
We do what we can, where we can, how we can. Not everyone has the same energy; not everyone can focus on the same problems; everyone has their own path to navigate, and every right to stay on it. People are fighting their own battles every day, unseen, often misunderstood; most of us pass quietly through this world, leaving very little mark except upon those we have loved. And that, too, is okay. Private victories are just as essential as public scores. We can’t all be Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln, nor are we meant to be.
I don’t write about world events and current affairs. Not only do I have no realistic solutions; I don’t even have bandaids or healing balms. I listen and observe; sometimes I understand; sometimes I weep, witnessing what is going on in the world, what is happening to people and animals and landscapes and oceans and the air we breathe.
No matter what you do or how much you do it, there is always more to do. You could run yourself ragged, sacrifice your health, your family life, and your peace of mind in order to save the world or your little corner of it. Is that what you want to do? Then go for it. If it feels good and right to you, do it.
But don’t assume that people who aren’t doing what you do or what you think they should do are doing nothing or doing the wrong thing or don’t care about anyone but themselves or are unaware or apathetic. Tend your own fire, and know that they are tending theirs. That humble, quiet mother living unnoticed out in the boonies, keeping her children fed and loved? She may be raising a future game-changer, but her name will never be a household word. That farmer with no time to attend meetings and sit on committees? He’s helping put food on your table as well as his own, and it’s not just an eight-hour-a-day job to do it. Everyone is playing their part, even if it’s behind the scenes. Even if they only whistle a merry tune when they see you, don't be fooled. They are as smart as you and as strong as you; take off your judge's cloak, stop making assumptions, and realize that most of us are just as concerned as you are about this world and the people in it. Not everyone is looking for accolades or recognition or letters after their names, but that doesn't mean the homebodies, the sports fans, the fashionistas, the TV-watchers and the shoppers aren't every bit as effective wherever they choose to put their attention. It all counts.