Embrace the Mystery, but get to work
We don't like the unknown. We don't like not knowing what's going to happen. We fear the path we cannot see.
The unknown has many people afraid right now. What will happen to immigrants? What will happen to Muslims? What will happen to medical care, education, voting rights, help for the poor and myriad other things President Donald Trump has vowed to change?
But Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Julia Walsh in a recent column reminds us that to follow Christ — to take up our cross as he commands — is to embrace mystery. It also, of course, means we must embrace the Spirit of God, sometimes known as the Holy Mystery. God works according to his own designs, not ours.
In fact, of all the things we give up when we give ourselves to God, the delusion that we have control may be the hardest. But letting that idea go and falling into the Mystery is when we finally die to self. It's not easy, and it's something many of us will struggle with the rest of our lives. But it is also where true freedom lies.
Which brings us back to the day-to-day reality of a changing government and what it will mean for the most vulnerable in our society. No one knows. But that's OK, not because we believe that God is behind the scenes, moving things like pieces on a chessboard, but because we believe that whatever happens, he is there with us.
Even more importantly? He is there through us. Like the man in a tree during a flood who turns away would-be rescuers in a canoe, boat and helicopter because he's waiting for God to save him, if we want God to work in our lives, then we need to be doing that work. We are his hands, we are his feet, we are his canoe and helicopter.
Yes, we must pray. Yes, we must embrace the Mystery. But, yes, we must also get to work.
So what do we do?
We do what we can. As Irish statesman Edmund Burke once said, "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." You don't have to do great things. You just have to do something.
The civil rights movement, after all, wasn't a success only because of people like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John Lewis. It was a success because thousands of others marched, sat, registered voters, walked instead of riding buses, rode buses they weren't allowed on, voted, wrote letters to the editor and their legislators and representatives. All those little things done by everyday people whose names will never be known added up to an avalanche.
So what can you do?
Catholic Relief Services has a list of seven things you can do to help Syrian refugees. It's a great list, but more importantly, it applies to almost any issue you may care about.
• Donate. Protests are great, but well-run organizations need money. Find the group that best serves your cause and get out your checkbook.
• Learn more. It's easy to scoff at efforts to raise awareness, but look where ignorance has gotten us. The better informed you are about the issue — whether it's Syrian refugees or undocumented migrants — the more of an impact you can make in all areas.
• Fundraise. Writing checks is great, but collecting checks and pooling them is even better. How many times have you seen appeals on social media to help a child with medical expenses or some other cause? You can do the same for whatever issue you're working on, especially if you remind your friends that even tiny donations help. My children several years ago started raising money for the local animal shelter, with donations of $1 here and $5 there. To date, they've raised over $1,000 — not because of big things, but because lots of people did a little.
• Advocate. You would be surprised how little response on an issue it takes to get a member of Congress's attention. Those letters and phone calls really do matter. Pro tip: Don't want a form-letter response? Don't write a form letter. Be yourself.
• Use social media. The same principle applies here. Use social media to find like-minded people, band together and get to work. The marches that took place all over the nation Saturday didn't happen because of a prominent central leader. They happened because people found each other on social media and decided to make a difference.
• Pray. Yes, embrace the Mystery and put it all in God's hands, but then ask that God guide you in your efforts. Pray for God's will to be done. Pray for your enemies. Pray for peace.
• Support. The CRS list talks about supporting refugees here in the United States, but even this can be applied to other issues. Worried about what will happen with voting rights? Support local efforts to register voters or help would-be voters get needed identification. Volunteer to drive people to the polls. Be a poll worker. Worried about how Muslims will be treated? Seek them out where you live and let them know you're on their side. Ask them what you can do and how you can help.
These may be frightening times for many, but they should also awaken us from our complacency. We cannot depend on someone else to take care of things for us. We are the workers in the field, and without us, the ground will go fallow — no matter who is the overseer.
Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at email@example.com.
Learn about the benefits of communal living in our latest Notes from the Field installment. Notes from the Field reports are written by a Catholic Volunteer Network volunteers.
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