“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa
Lately, it feels so easy to watch the news, or get on social media, and just spiral into despondency.
Who am I, in the the face of so much anger and sadness, to make the world a better place? What could I possibly do to make a dent in this giant soul crushing mess?
There’s a certain common variation-on-a-theme that I find especially discouraging and subversive. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It usually starts something like, “As long as we have one homeless veteran/child/senior . . . “
It’s a fast food meme that seeks to pit one cause against another, or suggests that one important cause must be completely resolved before we can find room in our hearts for another.
The problem, perhaps, with this thinking, is that the world will never be perfect. It’s full of humans, after all, and we are messy, deeply flawed creatures. I doubt we’ll ever completely solve giant problems. Most days, we can’t even agree on what they are.
I suppose we have two choices:
We can exhaust our precious time and energy arguing over which cause is most important. We can collapse under the weight of all the terrible problems that are beyond our tiny reach.
Or we can make the world a better place.
We can care about literacy, or clean water, or access to the arts, or mental health.
We can volunteer to teach chess, or shovel our elderly neighbor’s driveway. We can be generous with our compliments and considerate with our actions.
We can practice gratitude, and kindness and empathy.
I can’t do everything. But I can do something. And that’s better than nothing.
So here come the holidays. And you guys, I LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving especially – a holiday with no gifts, just family and food. A day to celebrate gratitude. And gratitude is such a powerful force for good.
I also think it’s hard to hang onto as we get steamrolled earlier and earlier with holiday marketing. It’s easy to feel poor when you’re overwhelmed with images of material abundance.
And isn’t it a shame to celebrate the birth of Jesus by running each other over with shopping carts?
Saving $10 on a toaster is fun, but perhaps there’s a better way to honor the meaning of Christmas . . .
I don’t know what cause is the best or most important, but I’ve picked one that resonates with me, and I’d like to tell you why.
I didn’t grow up wealthy. Far from it. But I had a safe and stable home. I had people looking out for me, on good days and bad. I had food, and health insurance, and someone to drive me to my ACTs. I had a fierce circle of family support from which to explore the big, scary world. I still do.
I think it’s easy to forget how much wealth that really is.
How much family support did you need to become a (hopefully) happy and functional adult? Who taught you how to drive a car? Tie a tie? Make grilled cheese? Apply for college? Get your first job? Deliver a firm handshake?
I couldn’t begin to quantify the value of those things in my life. It’s so much easier to take risks with a net below you. It’s so much easier to be brave when you have a safe place to fall.
And yet I know, there are teenagers all around us who are walking the wire every day without a net.
Did you know that on any night in Minnesota, over 6,000 youth are homeless and on their own?
I can’t even wrap my brain around that. I think about who I was as a teenager. I think about my boys (12 and 15) trying to navigate their way into adulthood.
It’s hard enough to grow up under the best of circumstances. How do you even begin to pull your adult life together when you’re not sure where you’ll be sleeping at night?
I have no idea how to make a dent in this large and complicated issue.
But luckily, there are other passionate, intelligent people who do.
Through the good folks at Workhorse Coffee, I heard about an organization called Avenues for Homeless Youth. They work to provide emergency services, short term housing and support services for homeless youth in Minneapolis and surrounding areas.
Fantastic. I can’t fix the myriad terrible problems of this world. I can’t even fix one. Most days, I can’t even find matching socks.
But what I can and will do, is throw something in a crockpot, maybe open a bottle of wine, and invite people to come knit and crochet in my shop for a few hours on Black Friday.
I can dig up a coffee can, and cut a hole in the lid.
I can write, “Avenues for Homeless Youth” on the side and stuff some money in there. I can invite other people to join me.
Then I can take that coffee can and give it to someone who’s working to make the world a better place.
Will we still have homeless veterans/children/seniors?
Is it the best, most important, cause?
I don’t know. But it’s a good cause, and one that happens to resonate with me as a mom and a daughter.
Will it help everyone?
No. But it will hopefully help someone. And if Mother Teresa, one of the most amazing human beings to ever walk the face of the Earth, thinks one person is worth the effort . . . well, that’s good enough for me.
So here’s the deal – if you want to hang out with us on Black Friday, we’d love to see you. Find the details and RSVP on Facebook.
Can’t make it? I’ll have ye old coffee can on my front desk all next week.
Out of area? You can certainly donate on their website.
Feeling drawn to support some other worthy cause? Fantastic. Thanks for doing your part to improve this little planet we call home <3
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
A few more facts . . .
Homeless youth struggle with numerous issues because of their age and lack of safe housing:
- They are too young to obtain rental housing on their own; they simply do not have adequate income or savings to pay a damage deposit.
- Without job experience or personal identification with a current address, they struggle to gain or improve upon their employment.
- They have had little or no access to health care, mental health, legal support or social services.
- Very often, their education is interrupted or curtailed.
(quoted from Avenues for Homeless Youth website)