A recent foot injury has led to some frustrating restrictions to my mobility. Standing for more than a few minutes is painful. Some of my favorite pastimes have been temporarily eliminated. My morning walks, which feed my spirit and brighten my mood, have been abandoned. Taking care of my flower gardens and communing with the birds as I feed them are put on hold for now.
As the list of activities that I can’t do seemed to grow longer and longer, I was becoming annoyed and feeling slightly sorry for myself.
I was lamenting my inability to exercise and enjoy the improving weather when my wise daughter observed, “Well, you could at least lift weights.” And bingo – a new perspective was introduced. Instead of focusing on the impossible, I was invited to imagine something new. Given my limitations, what could I do? It was an opportunity to be creative. I discovered several activities that worked – not only weight-lifting, but also yoga, swimming, biking, kayaking, and stretching. I didn’t need to curl up on the couch in pathetic defeat; I needed to shift my thinking and recognize what I could do.
Now I’m starting to expand that thinking to other dilemmas and problems. Often when a situation seems overwhelming, I find it easy or tempting to think, “Well, there’s nothing I can do.” Prejudice against the LGBT community? Can’t solve that. Systemic racism? Where would I even start? Global warming? Oceans polluted by plastic? Children being separated by their parents on the border? There are any number of issues, from personal to global that feel unsolvable. It’s tempting to sink into inaction.
And yet – my new thinking reminds me that I don’t have to come up with a complete answer. I don’t have to produce the entire solution. I just need to do what I can do. Maybe I can’t change society’s thinking about the LGBT community, but I can march in a Pride Parade or invite conversation with a bumper sticker. I doubt I will overcome centuries of racism and discrimination single-handedly, but I can accept the challenge to educate myself about the experiences of people of color and pledge to recognize moments of racism in myself and others.
What can I do? Pick up trash on the side of the road? Greet surly clerks with compassion? Send a card or email to a long-lost friend? What small action might be part of a larger answer?
There may not be a neat solution for every problem. But that isn’t an invitation to inaction. It’s a call (to quote John Wesley) to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”