As stores begin the process of enticing people to purchase gifts for the Christmas season, the contrasts in the national newspapers between what's going on in the world and advertisements "to buy" have been a bit over the top.
Images of luxury versus poverty bombarded me last week. Did you notice the advertisement for Harry Winston diamond earrings for $5,000 right next to the photograph of a frail, hungry and crying little boy in Africa?
How about the "Dream of a Lifetime Trip to the Caribbean" just opposite the image of a war-torn town in the Middle East?
Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan
What probably put me over the edge was an article last month debating whether the poor or the poorest should reap the benefits of micro-credit efforts. How easy it is for us in our comfortable positions to quibble and debate about who, among the poor and suffering, is more worthy of assistance. When all stomachs are empty, when lives are raw and ragged, who is to say "who is more deserving?"
So many of us on Sanibel and Captiva do worry deeply about the inequities in the world - locally and globally - and so many more people actively work to find resolutions, both with their hands and their purses. There are those too who become overwhelmed by the breadth of need and the level of poverty and deprivation and often become emotionally or spiritually paralyzed by the sheer enormity of it all. Edmund Burke often encouraged people in this seemingly helpless state of mind.
"The greatest mistake," he wrote, "is to do nothing, because realistically we can each only do a little."
And we all know that it's the "little bits" that can count in great ways. It's the "little bits" that sometimes send a small shock wave of positive, constructive energy through a single family, a single town, community, country, or planet. We simply need to explore, discover and name those "little bits" whether they're about speaking out for justice, feeding the poor, offering a helping hand, saving the environment, confronting a negative power dynamic in our midst, or inviting in the marginalized person.
We need to continue. We need to begin. We need to reenergize - always with the mindset of moving off the fence of comfort.
As we live into this season of giving and preparation; as we read and digest the tremendous needs facing humanity; as we strive for justice and peace among all people, let us believe with all of our beings that both small deeds and large efforts can serve to transform our backyards and the world. The needs of this world will always be with us and we need to put hands and hearts together to transform our hope into help, and not become paralyzed by the enormity of the need.
Reinhold Niebuhr once said, "Nothing worth doing is ever completed in a lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope."
With God's relentless grace and our relentless hope and efforts, we CAN transform the world - bit by bit.