Your answer to my last letter was very comforting but also very challenging. I do want to keep a warm heart, even towards strangers; I don’t want my heart to be cold towards the needs of others. But how is that possible practically when I am constantly confronted with needs immediately around me that are many hundreds of times larger than all my resources?
Your question is a piercing one! I can only respond in two ways.
First, one cannot do more than one can. God sees that, and He understands it. He does not require of us more than we can do. My own problem is not that I can’t do more than all my resources allow. My problem is that I fail to do what my resources do allow. Today I am haunted by the memory of a well-dressed young woman crying on the street yesterday. I was in a hurry as I had to return home where a taxi was coming to take me to the airport that I had to reach in time for a flight. If the person concerned had not been a young woman but a young man, would I have been more responsive? I do not know. And I certainly did not know how the sight of an ageing man like me coming up to the young lady might have been interpreted by her or by others. So I passed her by and went on. I could only pray for her to be comforted, and to be helped in any practical way necessary. Apart from appealing to God, there are limits to what we can do practically at any particular time. But I try to keep in mind the Scout Programme, in which a daily “Good Deed” is an important practice. One good deed daily is not impossible. It helps me develop an attitude of mind towards serving others, which helps offset my very human tendency to selfishness.
That brings me to the second matter. My daily Good Deed does not and will not address the needs of the many millions of people in the world. So, in addition to my daily Good Deed, I take time to study and understand why we have a world where, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, God has provided enough for everyone’s needs – but where the systems that we humans have created encourage and reward our individual greed. That is what makes it difficult for the world’s needs to be met.
Joining a movement
As a result of my study, at a global level I have decided to support the Relational Thinking movement (www.relationalthinking.net). Of all the movements I have come across, it seems to me that this has the most penetrating analysis, the most comprehensive programme of action, and the greatest likelihood of changing the world for the better. I also like the fact that they don’t have a fixed fee to join the movement. Rather, they ask those who wish to support the movement to give two hours’ worth of earnings, however much or little those might be. And people who can’t even afford to give that, or those who are unemployed, can simply join the mailing list so that they can keep themselves informed of the latest things happening in and through the movement. Naturally, anyone can invest time, energy, talents and ideas in the movement.
At a national level, I support FORWARD Press magazine, because it seems to me to be one of the few platforms that brings together all efforts to organize and change things in a positive way in our country. While the magazine does have a fixed fee to subscribe, the fee is actually lower than the cost of producing the magazine! That is why we should all do everything we can to publicize the magazine, and contribute in every way we can to it, especially with contacts who can use it for advertisements or provide other financial support to it.
Another very good way to support the magazine is by starting, or participating in, a Forward Readers’ Club. Such clubs could meet regularly to discuss one of the articles published in the magazine. Individuals and clubs could also decide if they wish to respond to such articles in some practical way(s).
Each of us is responsible only to God for all that we do or don’t do. And we are judged not only by universal standards, but also according to God’s guidance to each of us regarding what He does or does not want us individually to do.
Finally, even as I am doing all I can, I am confronted with these strange words from Jesus: “When you have done all you can, think of yourself as an unprofitable servant.” That is a call to humility. Our actions, or lack of action, are what form and shape our character. So, according to those words, our character is of far more interest to God than whatever we finally achieve or don’t achieve.
Published in the April 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine