If you’ve been around the internet for more than 10 minutes, you’ve likely run into people complaining about the state of the world today. Apparently kids these days are just the worst, although I happen to disagree. Because we have information available 24/7, the fallacy that things are worse than ever is easy to accept as truth. Clickbait only fertilizes these seedlings of terror.
Yet, since the Garden of Eden, evil has been in the world. It used to be that our experience with evil stretched as far as our network extended, plus whatever was on the evening news. It’s recent that we can read about all of it whenever we want, and with whatever spin we choose. Presently, we can feed our fears and perceptions with the search bar. In this mass consumption of media, it is easy to feel disheartened.
We share what is wrong, we comment, we argue. Misery loves company. And the more hopeless things seem, the easier it becomes to embrace inaction because “it won’t matter anyway.” But what if I told you that it does matter.
There is a beautiful Kenyan parable I heard on a podcast one day, the subject was helping.
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wildfire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes.
Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird. This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again.
All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire.”
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?”
And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said,
“I am doing what I can.”
In this life, we are responsible for what we do, and for what we don’t do. In the story, the hummingbird is small, and yet, seemingly unaware of his small stature. In the same way, we are small. There are 7.53 billion people on Earth. But being small and acting small is different; small does not mean insignificant. A ripple grows from the littlest disturbance.
After we acknowledge that we are small and that it’s ok to be small, we need to believe that we matter. Each one of us is unique: a beautiful snowflake, but at the same time, as layered like an onion. Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (NIV) Everything has already been done, but not by you. Beautiful, unique, complex and special you.
Your voice, your experience, your life is rare. It is the you-ness of your life work that creates change. The unique spin you put on something familiar is what will truly impact people. At one point, someone likely created something that resonated with you, even though you’d heard it before. You also have the same power.
In this journey to spread the good stuff, we also have to acknowledge that not everyone will follow us in action. The bystander effect, laziness, and fear of vulnerability are all easy ways to stay stuck and not help. Taking action is bold, it puts us “out there” and leaves us vulnerable to criticism.
Yet, we don’t have permission to stay stagnant, on the shore, watching others act. That’s not what we were made to do. Don’t accept that lie that you have nothing to add to this world.
If you love words: write. If you love people: find ways to connect. If you commute to work: don’t cut people off. Hold doors, seek connections, look people in the eye…all small, all meaningful, all spread goodness.
What if we lived our lives as if everyone was more important than us? Could you even imagine? We were made by an artistic God to be creative, connected beings. We love as He loves.
You don’t have permission to deprive the world of you.
As my wise friend once passed on to me: “Do not die with a treasure inside of you.”
How tragic would that be?
Do what you can.