Do what you can with what you have where you are. - Theodore Roosevelt
Ever since I can remember, I've had a heart for the underdog. According to my mom, I made friends with this little boy in daycare and doted on him day in and day out and was heartbroken when our time together in daycare ended. As a kid, I remember often feeling afraid and insecure around kids who were considered popular until someone else was threatened.
In elementary school at St. Sebastians in Milwaukee I spit on a kid who was teasing a friend of mine so I was put on the wall for a 'time out' of sorts during recess. Later on in middle school in Marion, Ohio I managed to confront a bully face to face and convince our mutual friends to leave the bully at a table by herself to sit with me. These instances were years ago but they feel like they were yesterday. The feeling of needing to do something for someone just seems so timely.
Now that I'm in the midst of these moments and weeks and years of raising little kids, I keep finding my heart reverting back to its roots of just caring a lot about those around me. I don't know if my adolescent years or post-college years were just filled with a lot of selfish career-chasing seasons or maybe my head was stuck in my phone... There's something really familiar and like a reunion with my old self as I find my mind and heart really working out the issues of the day and how I can be a force for good.
As with many people, the last two weeks have really caught me off guard with the crisis of minors and their parents at our southern borders. I wrote my thoughts on the crisis here.
With no intention of your pity or comfort, the immigration crisis really rocked my world and still has me asking a lot of questions. There were so many instances in June where I would take my boys to an activity, cook a meal, or get some work done and I'd just stop and think, "What am I doing?!" Like, here I am living my life while others can't do the same. There's something about the proximity of our southern border, the familiarity of children, trauma, and family separation, that hit me in such a way that all my sadness and grief over global injustices just spilled out.
In the midst of my confusion and sorrow a few weeks ago, I emailed my Dad and asked for his thoughts on feeling empathy and the need for action (of some kind).
He wrote: "We need, in humility, to eat the suffering, as it were, like our daily bread. In this way, we share, if only cosmically, the suffering of the world, which ultimately only God can heal. Many, in fact, believe it is this “holding” of the suffering of the world by prayerful, faithfully conscious people, that will transform the world bit by bit."
I don't believe my Dad is calling for inaction, but rather spurring us to sit in the pain, acknowledge the pain of others, and be alongside those who are hurting-- even remotely-- to honor their story and give space for God to do his work.
As I take this lesson from my Dad, and distance myself from the challenges of July, I am taking off the cloak of sadness and angst and re-emerging from this experience with a renewed energy to seek justice and walk humbly in joy.
I am learning to really do what I can with what I have where I am, like Theodore Roosevelt said and like my Grandma Aggie did. My Grandparents lived this out in their communities. We can keep it simple and still be active. We can protest, we can raise money, we can comfort our loved ones, and we can be joyful.
I'm learning that we can and should do both.