Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Paradox

This swivel-head fake owl is supposed to deter the woodpeckers from pecking at the cedar siding on my house. He's not very good at it. The flowers in the foreground are Weigelas.

Here is the paradox...
It is not as if our hearts are stone. We do hurt when others hurt and we cry when others cry. This is compassion, and most of us, in fact, have a good measure of it. But when the problems over which we grieve are large or complex, our measured response seems to lessen. Suffering, natural disasters, poverty, hunger, injustice... it's just too much! After all, what difference can one person make anyway? Seeing ourselves as tiny by comparison, we feel inadequate for the task of solving gargantuan problems and providing for overwhelming needs. The very enormity of the need becomes the very thing that paralyzes us from responding. We shift our attention away, thinking, even praying that someone more famous or with a bigger bankroll or with more connections will come along to help these particular starfish.

Furthermore, it is obvious that people want to, and are ready to do and to give and to help. But it's all so impersonal. We pick up a brochure or we see the need on TV. But, without a personal connection to those who challenge us to give, we decide that now is not quite the right time to get involved. What a sad disconnect: plenty of human compassion and ready resources, but a comparatively puny response to our confrontation with desperate human need.

But we all like the starfish story, don't we? It frees us from the burden of saving the world. The story resonates with what we all intuitively know to be true... that singlehandedly I cannot change the world, but I might be able to make a big difference for a tiny part of it. For a child or a village or an orphanage. If only someone would invite us for a stroll down the beach...

STARFYSH is your invitation. Would you join me for a walk down the beach?

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