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

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?

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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