By Br. Terrence Declan —
How can I help? These simple four words can be a great source of relief to someone who is trying to accomplish a task. These same four words might also pose a sense of frustration to the person thinking or saying the words.
I know I have been greatly relieved when people have offered their assistance to me for tasks ranging from seemingly small to insurmountable. On the other hand, I have often wanted to do something to help a person or a cause and have felt helpless. Sometimes the cause is so large I don’t know where to begin. Then there are so many worthy causes I am at a loss as to where to begin. Or the cause is so complex I don’t know if I have any skills to offer. So I wonder rather than ask, “How can I help?”.
Over the course of American history we have witnessed great movements started by individuals or small groups. Some of these struggles are ongoing; Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Anti-War, Environment, #MeToo, #BlackLIvesMatter, Immigration Reform, Drugs, Gun Control, Prison Reform, just to mention a few.
So here I am wondering, “How Can I Help?”. With all of the social injustice, violence, war, hate, even the lack of common decency and respect for one another and all of creation: I not only wonder how I can help but also ask myself, “Where do I start?” And that is the precise question that I am able to answer.
I start with me. I most likely cannot effect change in any of the above conditions worldwide in a short span of time. But I know I can help. I do indeed know this. I cannot influence the whole world. But I can influence my world. In fact, I do believe I am able to influence the whole world by beginning with my world. Actually it is God doing the influencing. I realize this sounds a little confusing. It may even sound like double-talk. Please allow me to explain.
Jean Varnier, Founder of L’Arche stated the following:
“But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviors of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time. (163)”
― Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
I believe that by God’s grace that through me, indeed through each and every one of us the world can be changed. If I respond to hate with love, to violence with kindness, to greed with generosity, to exclusion with acceptance, to confrontation with tolerance then lives are changed. It spreads. It’s contagious.
Phileena Heuertz of The Gravity Center states it this way, “ To the degree we are changed, the world is changed.”
If I simply am present to the needs of others with whom I come in contact on any given day or in any given moment, then I believe I can help and am helping.
How can I help to change the world? Where do I begin? Q: How? A: One heart at a time. Q: Where? A: Me. Shall we begin?