With all the political chaos in this country, and waves of illegal aliens pouring across our southern border, and "woke" policies screwing up our institutions and corporations, and education a joke, and world affairs drowning in blood, a lot of people get to the point of despair. They ask themselves, "Why bother? If things are going to hell in a handbasket, I can't stop them, and can't alter their course, so why not just give up and reach for the nearest bottle to drown my sorrows?"
Wrong approach, big-time.
It's hard to accept that we can't affect the "big picture" . . . but we can't. It's as simple as that. Nothing I as an individual can do will influence a corporation, or a government, or a nation to do something different. So, I simply must accept that. Why beat my head against a brick wall?
On the other hand, there's a lot I can do to affect myself, and my family, and my immediate environment. If I help get all those things right, then my family and those around us will live happier lives. If families around us live happier and more successful lives, we'll spread the message by example. If enough of us do that, we can change a suburb, or a town, or even a region. We can't affect things from the top down - so why not affect them one life at a time, from the ground up?
That's why I've persevered with this blog for all these years. I can't persuade everyone, and my voice isn't anywhere near loud enough to be heard above the blather from the bully pulpits of this world. Nevertheless, I still have a pastor's heart, after all my years doing that for real. I still have a voice. If I can use my voice to reach one, or two, or three people every day, I can help them. If they, in turn, use their voices to reach one, or two, or three other people every day, that spreads. Sure, it'll never be noticed in the "big picture" - but enough of us doing that can change the "big picture". If we can do that in the right way, in the right direction, the world can still be a better place because we're in it. We may not be able to change every place, but we can help to change the place we're in; and if enough of us do that, our combined influence can reach a surprising distance.
So . . . in the midst of all the sturm und drang going on all around us . . . what can each and every one of us do, to make a practical difference?
- We can start by being thankful to God (or, if we don't believe in God, to whatever benevolent but impersonal universe we may recognize) for the good things we have - people we love and/or care about, food on our tables, roofs over our heads, and so on. The simple, little things we take for granted - but many in this world lack, and would cheerfully commit murder to have instead of the abject deprivation and poverty in which they live.
- That done as a first step, we can work hard at maintaining and improving what we have. All the little things that make a house into a home (cleaning, cooking, laundry, sweeping, and so on) have to be done; but instead of complaining about doing them, let's be grateful we have enough to need to do them. Many don't. There's a lot to be said for a home, for all it takes effort and upkeep.
- Let's do what we can to stay healthy. That's not only avoiding disease, but trying to keep fit, maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, and so on. It's not easily done today, and our society isn't exactly structured to help us do so. There are lots of temptations to avoid, and lots of simple things we can do that aren't pleasant or enjoyable (most of us don't like sweating or sore muscles in order to get and keep fit). Nevertheless, doing them now often means a healthier, less stressful future.
- I figure many are reading those first three points and tossing their heads in disdain. "None of that will make a difference to our world! You're just spouting pious platitudes!" Well, have you looked around you lately - not just at your own neighborhood, but your town, your city, your state? How many people don't have those things, and desperately want them? How many are so drugged-up and disoriented they can no longer think of or remember them? How many cities have their own Tenderloins (see below)? If more of us did these simple things, and got them right, and tried to spread their message, how many fewer Tenderloins would there be because of our example?
Let's go further.
- I've written often about preparing for hard times and emergencies. A lot of people say they can't afford to do that . . . but they can afford to drink, or smoke, or spend an evening at the casino. What if, every month, they used half the money they devote to those pleasures to instead build up a reserve of essential foods and supplies, so that if hard times come, they can look after themselves instead of joining the hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people who will overwhelm any attempt to help them? What if we prepare, not just to help ourselves, but to help others who are close to us? If one family can help two or three others - friends, relatives, whatever - even with the simplest things, and that group of families can help others nearby in the same way, that can drastically reduce the strain on emergency services, and make life more livable for all of us. That's worth a thought, because we don't live in isolation from each other, as Benjamin Franklin so trenchantly pointed out.
- There's a certain peace of mind in being as ready as we can be for the curve balls life will undoubtedly throw at us. We may not be able to survive an earthquake, or a hurricane, or a nuclear explosion if World War 3 breaks out: but a freeze, or a heat wave, or a break in a water main, or a short-term interruption of the supply network? A kid faces an important examination at school? A car breaks down? The water heater dies? We can cover those things as best we can, and we're willing and ready to do so if need be. Just knowing that makes us sleep better at night. It should.
- We can raise our children - and help our friends raise their children - to be as strong, versatile and prepared to face life as they possibly can be. The legacy we leave future generations can be positive, or negative. I'd rather focus on the positive, thanks very much. There's enough negativity all around us already. Why add to it? As Jim Davis' Garfield put it:
- Finally, let's never forget to count our blessings. Most of us have more of them than we can recognize - but we'd sure remember them if we suddenly had to do without them! Think back to those Tenderloin folks shown above. How many of them have lost almost everything, to land up in such a situation? Most were ordinary people like us. Even as we try to help those we can, let's be very, very grateful we haven't hit the same slippery slope that they did.
Trite? Possibly . . . but it's the only way I know to deal with life. Let's get the basics right, one step at a time, one day at a time. I doubt that any of us have got all of them right, all of the time. We could all stand to do better. If enough of us try to do that, I think we may be surprised at what a difference we can make (with God's help, for those who believe as I do) to the world we live in, and those we love, and the people around us. For those who don't believe as I do . . . try it anyway. You might be surprised!