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Making Sense of the World and How I Can Have an Impact

December 16, 2015

The world feels like it’s in utter chaos lately. Paris, shootings, Beirut, bomb threats, dictators, ISIS, refugee crises, and presidential politics … I find myself going through each day feeling helpless and confused. These are not feelings I passionately share on Facebook, nor have I written about them here on my blog. But the truth is, in my 40 years of life — even after September 11 — this is the most powerless I’ve ever felt. The world is vast and these problems seem unsolvable.

For quite some time now, my mind has been plagued with one question: How can I — one insignificant individual — have an impact on what’s happening in the world?

peace on earth

I did some soul searching and reading, and came up with a few ways I can personally make a difference. This not a political post or a debate starter, and I’m not trying to convince you how or what to believe. This is my way of figuring out how I can do something (anything) to stay sane in such an insane time.

I can be informed and understand what’s happening. How many of us really understand ISIS and everything that’s happening in the world? In a bout of feeling completely helpless, I did some research to help me understand the foundation for this conflict and global terrorism. After reading this incredibly helpful article and others like it, I had a new-found awareness of what’s happening and the knowledge to talk about it more openly. Having a greater understanding helped me feel so much more empowered.

I can have compassion and focus on humanity. As I said above, I’m not here to preach about letting refugees into the country and I don’t seek to change your opinion on the subject. But I do think making an effort to connect and be present in humanity is important in order to turn the focus from evil to good. I was beyond moved by this powerful article by Mandy Patinkin as he describes his experience visiting Syrian refuges in Europe. This particular passage hit me hard:

“I saw death behind me and life in front of me.” My family might have spoken the same words in Yiddish or Russian or Polish as they made their perilous journeys away from their homes. As I listened to the stories of these new generations of refugee families and thought of past generations of my own, the fear-mongering news cycles faded away, and I saw clearly that we cannot fight fear and hatred with more fear and hatred. We must not allow the horrific actions of madmen to cut us off from our humanity.

I can choose to remove hate from my daily encounters. I had a powerful realization the other day that I have control over some of the messages of hate I see around me. It started when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw an extremely offensive photo comparing Obama to Hitler. I really don’t care if someone likes Obama or Trump or Clinton (or anyone else for that matter). But engaging in that kind of language does nothing but promote blame and fear. I unfollowed that person because eliminating hate from my life is one small thing I can do to have an impact.

I can raise my daughter with intention and in a community that’s reflective of the world. Sophie attends a public school where Caucasian students are in the minority. For her, cultural differences are the norm. Diversity is not a buzz word in her life; it’s a way of life.

I can use the skills I have as a writer. I have a platform, and the ability to skillfully use words to share my thoughts, ideas, frustrations and joy. If these words can reach one person and make a difference in just one life, perhaps I’m doing some good in this world.

I don’t know what the next few months, years or decades will bring. I imagine it will get worse before it gets better. I worry every day about the world Sophie is inheriting.

These are small things I write about today. And to be completely honest, I have no idea if any of this will do any good. But I can only hope the small and thoughtful will make a difference in the larger collective. At least that’s what I tell myself and hope for … because what else can I do?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2015 4:24 am

    Well said, Leah. We can only keep doing the best we can. Though politically it’s important to vote wisely and I’ve joined some anti-gun campaigns. Keep writing.

    • Leah permalink*
      December 16, 2015 10:56 am

      Thanks, Lisa! You are so right about voting (and voting wisely) is also so important! Thanks for the reminder.

  2. December 16, 2015 4:42 am

    Very well said Leah. I agree that education is so important. I need to be better informed myself. It’s easy these days to take the news in headlines, but with complicated and important issues such as these, more is required. That Mandy Patinkin article is very powerful.

    • Leah permalink*
      December 16, 2015 10:56 am

      Wasn’t Mandy’s article powerful? It helped me focus a lot on how I want to believe and what I should do. Thanks for reading!

  3. Amber permalink
    December 16, 2015 10:16 am

    Great blog, Leah. I agree! Knowledge is powerful and “Never Stop Learning” is empowering! I love your take on Sophie’s education. Most of us, growing up in San Diego, have had the privilege of cultural diversity, and I personally don’t understand how there is still racism in this country, but I guess its because I’ve never lived in a place without diversity.

    • Leah permalink*
      December 16, 2015 10:57 am

      Thanks, Amber! I figure if we can help teach our kids to be good people, that’s a step in the right direction!

  4. December 16, 2015 10:40 am

    I am humbled and impressed that you took this topic on. You know what? I know very little about ISIS/ISIL and I need to know. I also believe we need to actively advocate for mental health initiatives in this country to support humans who have urges to shoot mass amounts of innocent persons in movie theaters, school campuses, etc.
    Thank you for personalizing such a heartbreaking issue. What you did is empower the rest of us to make this personal too.

    • Leah permalink*
      December 16, 2015 10:59 am

      Thanks so much, Allison! I believe you are SO right-on about mental health initiatives. I clearly didn’t get into this subject, but I believe that is the key to stopping mass shootings and gun violence. I’m glad my words had an impact on you.

  5. December 20, 2015 7:44 am

    Powerful and well said!

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