Monday, December 3, 2012

wonder, cynicism, service, and other rambling

Many people use social media to post about environmental, human rights, social justice, and political causes. While I acknowledge the need to raise awareness on many issues which cause suffering in this world, I am (mostly) not compelled to share in this digital way.  It can be so difficult to take a hard, long look (or even a lingering glimpse) at the world's suffering without feeling helpless to enact any real, lasting, positive change as an individual.  I think this is why so many people become heavily cynical.  It is intense to hold the capacity to take it all in and still remain open and vulnerable.

As a rural dweller in the United States who is fairly introverted and raising three young daughters, I often wonder, am I doing enough? Could I possibly do enough?  Should I volunteer more, be more active in my community, donate financially to worthy global causes?   Which causes are the most worthy?

I live my life by the principles of respect and acceptance.  I live as mindfully and joyfully as I know how.  I treat others with kindness as much as I am able.  Could that be enough?  Is it too self- and family-centered?

I don't have the financial resources to donate in more than small ways, but I know that those small bits make a difference when compiled with others' similar choices.  Besides organized giving, I have put gas in the tank of stranded travelers, given food to hungry people, sung carols and visited with the lonely and elderly, given mittens to cold children, etc.  I have held trust and love and open arms for hurting friends, attended protests and peace rallies, danced the dances of universal peace, prayed and wept, changed diapers and wiped spills for a single mother with infant twins, smiled at a million strangers.  Little things, all, tiny, really.

At times in my early adulthood, I have also been hungry and accepted food, houseless and accepted shelter, without transportation and accepted a ride, without direction and accepted kindness. Yet I can see clearly how privileged I am to live in the time and place that I live in.  What can I give back?  Not can I make a difference, but how can I make a difference?

I will be a droplet of rain, insignificant alone, yet together we can nourish abundant growth, bubble up in a life-giving spring, flow forward as a purposeful stream, or be a still pond to reflect the moonlight and the sunlight.  Water is my metaphor.  It is fluid and adaptable, yet it has cohesion and power.

I recently listened to an hour-long program on Wisconsin Public Radio all about wonder.  It was said that having the trait of being "open to experience" made one more likely to experience wonder. A cynical attitude makes one less likely to experience wonder.  I think this same sense of being open-hearted and easily capable of wonder, can make one vulnerable to overwhelm in the face of the troubles of the world and its people.  Can we hold our hearts and eyes wide open without becoming cynical or getting swept under by the sheer magnitude of it all?

I certainly don't have "the answers" (if there are such things), and I have many more questions, but these are some of my rambling thoughts of late.

Some loosely related quotes and links:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.” 
― Mother Teresa

"Wonder merges mind and body.  It's a sense of place in the overwhelming, unknowable universe.  It's feeling fully present and connected to something large, complex, mysterious, and benevolent . . . our capacity to take in the world, try to understand it, translate it, and share it. Wonder comes when I'm reminded that, unlikely as it is, we are somehow manifest as creative beings on a generous planet, with five senses and the consciousness to contain them all . . . .  We get to be here and reflect on being here and that is the wonder."
-- Sara Nics, producer of More Wonder! on To the Best of our Knowledge on Wisconsin Public Radio

DailyGood:  News That Inspires ~ a positive news source
        Here's a story of one man making a difference and the effects of that difference years later.  Here's a story of a young woman making a difference for children in Nepal's prisons.

Very loosely related videos:
great Wisconsin video


I have the utmost respect for all of you out there making differences, affecting positive change.  Whether it's through global causes, community service, parenting with kindness, or living joyfully and mindfully within.  Every better decision is a step in the right direction.  May there be more wonder than cynicism in your life today.


  1. Very thought provoking post. I too often wonder exactly the same thing and would like to do more and maybe get the kids involved in helping out too. But where to start to move beyond the small for thought here x

  2. Lou, YES to getting the kids involved (if they are willing). Some things my kids have enjoyed and found meaningful: Donating supplies and visiting a small shelter for homeless women and children. Harvesting and packaging organic veggies for low-income families. Making signs and chanting at protest rallies. Helping choose new mittens and toys to be distributed to local children, and helping choose what to donate for through Heifer International. This will be our 4th year Christmas caroling and visiting with the residents at various nursing homes. To continue my water metaphor, we will be drops in the bucket, knowing that we are not alone and that every drop counts. As my children grow, and more space opens in my life, I hope to contribute more deeply, and make a greater "splash".

  3. Oh, and just one more quote: "One generation of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world." ~Charles Raison

  4. Wow what a post!

    I notice as the girls grow, especially Sky the more passionate about things they become. What warm loving hearts they have. I have such positive hope of our future generation.

  5. Wonder-ful post! Small drops become big ripples of change. And we can help our children to understand by leading by example. Love your points :) Bright blessings.


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