Tag Archives: Being Helpful

Hope Is Together

Today marks the beginning of Lent. I read the Pope’s sermon for today, which I thought was quite good, and I went to an Ash Wednesday service at my church earlier this evening. The overall theme of the day was, of course, self sacrifice and giving to the poor. Another part of Lent is trying to become closer to God through prayer and/or reading scripture. Of course, every year everyone is urged to give something up or do something new to try and help themselves or the larger community.

At first I thought I might give up video games, but I hardly play video games anymore anyway. Then I thought I’d try and commit myself more to my music project, but again, I’ve already started doing that. Then I decided that I would try and do something bigger. In one of my classes we’ve been talking about literature related to slavery in America. We’ve been talking mostly in the context of African American slavery in the Civil War era, but one of my classmates mentioned that a percentage of people in America are still enslaved today. I mean, I guess I already knew that– maybe I had heard about it somewhere a long time ago and it was floating around in the back of my mind, but for some reason it really got under my skin and downright pissed me off, quite frankly.

When Dad and I got back from church earlier tonight I looked up modern slavery in America. I stared at the Google results, and looked at a couple websites, and then I realized something. I haven’t done anything about big, overwhelming problems like this in the past partly because big, overwhelming problems like this scare me. I feel absolutely helpless when I look at problems like the conflicts in the Middle East, or AIDS in Africa, or human trafficking in America, India or anywhere else. I feel so hopeless when I read about people who suffer from depression or know someone who has committed suicide or hear that my best friend is in the hospital again because she had another relapse. In short, the suffering of other people really affects me.

The speaker at our chapel service at school today was a pastor at an Evangelical church nearby. He was one of those guys who get really passionate when talking about Christ and tend to yell. Admittedly, it’s a little much for me, especially since I made the mistake of sitting in the front row today. Something he said, however, seemed very right, or true to me, for lack of a better word. He said that hope is communal. It is stronger when people are hoping for something together. I think that’s true of prayer as well. It feels more powerful and authentic when people pray together. I’ve experienced this with my friend at the recording studio. We’ve adopted the practice of praying before sessions, and man does it work.

I told myself a long time ago that I was going to devote myself to prayer because it seems to be the way in which I can be most helpful to the world right now. Well, I didn’t really do that as well as I would have liked, so I think I’m going to do that over Lent, and hopefully continue to do it in the future. I just need to make sure I spend a certain amount of time every day focusing on nothing but prayer and devotion. I think really good things will come of it. Despite everything that goes on in this messy world, I am still very hopeful, and I hope you guys are too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Satisfaction

I haven’t been praying as much as I’ve wanted to lately. I wrote a while ago that I thought prayer was my way of being helpful and doing God’s work. The problem with that is that it isn’t always that satisfying. I want to do meaningful things. It’s been hard for me to figure out what is meaningful and what is doable. A big part of it is that I think too hard. I’m not saying prayer isn’t meaningful, it’s just that it feels like I need to be doing something more.

I’m always trying to figure out ways to “save the world.” Yesterday I went to the movies with a friend of mine. I met her through a program called Project TEAM; the project that I’ve been working on through Boston University. At first I was her peer mentor, which meant I would call her once a week and help her review the things she was learning in the weekly sessions. As a part of Project TEAM, each trainee gets to go on a field trip. Since Alycia lives super close to my house I offered to give her a ride home from her field trip. I don’t remember how we ended up talking about college, but somehow on the ride home I ended up offering to show her around Gordon. At some point we exchanged phone numbers, and when Project TEAM was over we started hanging out anyway.

Now Alycia is on the development panel with myself and a few other people, and she’s going to be a peer mentor herself. When I first met her, it didn’t really seem like she was thinking about college at all, but she’s started talking about it the past couple times we’ve hung out. I don’t know if this is just coincidence or if it had anything to do with what I did, but I’m just really proud of her, and I’m glad we’re friends.

Something I have trouble with is coming out of my shell and just being nice. I agonize over exactly what to say in so many situations and I often end up just saying nothing and avoiding the situation. I’m trying to get better at that, and I think I am getting better at it. Today I did something that I normally have trouble with. If a friend is having trouble with something, I usually don’t ask them to talk about it. I just try to make them comfortable enough so they can just tell me when/if they want to. I almost never explicitly ask if something is wrong (I know, kind of a problem). My friends usually do tell me when something is wrong, which I’m glad for, but as I said, I almost never simply come out and ask, partly because I’m worried it will annoy them.

The thing is, there have been so many times where I have held something in and never told anyone it was bothering me simply because no one asked if something was wrong. I’m not even good at hiding it either. I made a step in the right direction today, though. One of my friends posted on their blog that they were dealing with some difficult stuff, so I sent her a text just saying that I was available to talk if she wanted to. Just doing that one little nice thing felt good. I need to change and do more of that because I think that kind of thing brings me the satisfaction that I’m looking for. I think I’m just rather impatient because on one level, I want deep, loving relationships with people, but on another level I just want to “fix” everyone, which may mean not getting as close to a lot of people. I think to get the satisfaction out of life that I want I need to ignore the second level urge because it’s unrealistic and impersonal. It’s a very hard urge to ignore, though.

In church today, the deacon talked about how we, like John the Baptist should pave the way for Jesus’ coming (in terms of Christmas and in general). It made real concrete sense in my mind today; I need to be doing Jesus’ work while he’s not here in the flesh. I know that when I get past my own awkwardness that good things happen, so I need to work on being less of a perfectionist. I need to worry a lot less about embarrassing myself because in the long run, what is a little embarrassment going to cost me? Part of it is also that I’m worried that if I don’t say things perfectly that people will take what I’m trying to say the wrong way. Again, it would be easy enough to apologize or correct myself. It really doesn’t matter all that much.

I could do a whole heck of a lot more good if I just stop being a perfectionist. I guess I’m always a little afraid of doing nice things too, because I’m sort of a pessimist in that I always wonder what will come of it in the end. I guess the point isn’t the outcome, but the intention behind it. Instead of worrying about the outcome, I should just plant a seed and hope for the best. That’s really how life works anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

P.S., I’m sure I’ll be writing again between now and then anyway, but I just wanted to say happy Christmas to all the peeps who read my blog. 🙂

Make Use Of Your Magic

I’ve spent many hours over the past 2 or 3 days trying to figure out if there was some kind of volunteer work I could do from home or close by in town. I don’t drive so I didn’t want my work to end up being inconvenient to my parents or anyone else who would be willing to drive me. What made things even more complicated was that my disability makes it impossible to do many hands-on tasks that I would sincerely love to do. I still haven’t found anything that’s close enough or even doable.

In Luke 14 Jesus says to a man who invited him to a banquet that he should not invite rich neighbors or friends and family to his lavish dinner party. Instead he should invite the poor, the lame, etc. His rich friends can and probably will repay him, but the poor can’t pay him back. If he takes care of them though, it’s out of love and compassion and he will be “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I read this the other day and it really struck me. I want to help people because I should. Something I figured out while I was searching was that if you want to volunteer you have to pick a problem and a cause and focus on those and those alone. There are a lot of things that bother me, but a few of them are related. Needless hate and violence really bothers me. Apathy is likewise a big problem that is often overlooked. I remember hearing a story about a man who decided to commit suicide. He lived in a large city and his note said, “I’m going to the bridge. If one person smiles at me or even acknowledges me, I won’t jump.” The story did not have a happy ending.

I remember when we went down to Georgia for my graduation/18th birthday trip. We were spending a night in Charleston, South Carolina and we were wandering around trying to find a place to eat– obvious tourists. A young man noticed us and asked us if we needed any help in a very friendly voice. I don’t remember if we said yes or no, but I do remember that we were slightly in shock. We weren’t used to complete strangers being that nice to us.

Ironically, people often seem to care more about people oversees than own next door neighbors. There is poverty, hunger and homelessness right here in the U.S. I’m not saying our problems are more important than anyone else’s. However, I do think that solutions could start at home. I love the idea of paying it forward. If everyone made an individual effort to make one other person’s life better, that person might do the same for someone else. In a literal sense, I think we can spread love; if we try hard enough, we can spread it all over the globe.

Love and compassion can save lives. It trumps greed and selfishness and it brings people together instead of pushing them farther apart. I think the best thing is to do what you can.  If you can write, then write and inundate the internet with the shared message of love. If you can travel to foreign countries and build houses for people, do that because that seriously needs to be done. If you can sing, then belt it and make sure people hear that love will win.

I think sometimes people are guilted into inaction. If you’re not out on the front lines of a particular organization’s effort than you’re a terrible person. I definitely think that this kind of mentality is harmful. Every person has a different situation and a different skill set that can be useful for making this world a better place. The trick is to figure out how to put those skills to use. It’s an opportunity to be creative and challenge yourself while doing something wonderful.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Marshmallows And Gratitude

I complain a lot. In fact, you guys probably see my whiney side most of the time. I’m always complaining about being lazy or not trying hard enough or wanting to do more and not knowing how or whatever else.

The fact of the matter is that I have a really easy, comfortable life and I should be thankful for that. By itself it’s not a bad thing, and I need to remind myself of that. My dad built a really nice fire place out by our pool and we were sitting out there just talking and roasting marsh mallows a little while ago. It was making me warm and sleepy and very happy. Before I came in Mom said, “We have a really nice house and a nice pool and a nice fire place and a nice family.”

Well, we do, and we have all this stuff because we grew up in a free country and because my parents work hard. Having all of this stuff allows us to be comfortable and allows us to be generous and helpful. I can work on my music career and go to college because my parents are willing to help me. I don’t have to fight for my freedom because it was given to me at birth. It doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean I’m “the favorite” or anything. It does mean that I have the responsibility to speak my mind and help those who are less fortunate in any way I can.

Saying that I don’t appreciate everything I have would be lying, and it would be ungrateful. I really do appreciate being able to write and access the internet whenever I want. I appreciate being able to spend the afternoon playing guitar. I appreciate that I don’t have to hide my opinions or feelings or beliefs. I am glad that all I have to worry about is what my future will be like and what the problems are in far away places because the here and now is good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!