I’ve always been one of those people who gets overwhelmed by the world.
I think my emotional nature is a left-over occupational hazard from being an actor during my formative years. For 18 years I needed to be able to cry on cue, and it seems those floodgates just never closed. Suffering of any kind leaves me weak in the knees and injustice makes me feel like clawing my skin off.
I still have a touch of the drama, apparently.
But I realized that I can’t just shut my eyes to the suffering in the world. I tried putting my hands over my ears and singing until it went away. That didn’t work. So, instead of crying about it, I’ve decided there might be a little something I can do. But what? And how do I handle the fact that I can’t fix everything? How do I save the whales and cure hunger and stop global warming? I’m one small person so how do I make a dent? How do I pick just one thing in this sea of need? It’s useless, right?
But then I read this:
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
– Edward Everett Hale
Hells yes, Mr. Hale.
I started volunteering at my local non-kill animal shelter. Which happens to be the place where we met our darling girl, Grace. I figure that I owe them, big time.
So, I cuddle cats and clean litter boxes and let puppies chew on my fingers. I address thank you notes and fill out donation forms. I thought it would be too sad to work in a shelter. It’s not. It’s joyful. Even the photocopying is joyful. And it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. They are short-staffed during the holidays, so I’ll be there to try to fill in the gaps.
The other day, I was opening up their mail and organizing the checks that came in. When donations arrived for $200 or $300, my heart leapt. That would buy so many treats! New beds! Pay for more surgeries!
But when I opened the checks for $5. That’s when I lost my shit. That’s when I cried.
Because those people understand so much better than I do that even a little bit helps. Those people, regardless of their financial situation, made the decision to do what they can and speak up for what they believe in.
I want to hug every one of them. Because they remind me of something that I don’t want to ever forget. It’s good to have empathy, but it’s not so good when I drown in it and apathetically throw up my hands in defeat. The whole point of life is to wake up and do something meaningful. Make the moment count.
I can’t cure cancer and I can’t make sure every animal is in a forever home for Christmas. But I can spend twenty minutes talking to the new scared kitten that just came in and encouraging her to eat some food. I can write a note to the man who donated $5 and tell him that his donation meant something. That he means something.
And if I can do that in this season – this season that at its core is about love and giving – that’s all I really need.
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