What (not) to do when the world is falling apart

Unraveling. Photo by Populux !!!, Flickr

This week, man.

First came the Nepal earthquake. Then the Baltimore riots. Then the Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage. Then a cold. Then my period. And to tie it all up with a neat red bow, today's unbelievable-but-true event: a structural collapse at my office building.

Are all these events on equal footing? Of course not. Do they all contribute to my deepening sensation of helplessness, confusion, tension, anger, and disbelief? You bet.

What's worse is my growing acknowledgement of a hard truth: I have not been brave. At all. Through any of it. Because what did I do after following a classmate's sobering updates from the ground in Nepal? After reading furious headlines and online battles about Baltimore? After evacuating my building and being sent home for the day, laptop still on at my desk, unsure of when we'd be able to return?

I dusted.

Yes, dusted. I attacked the snow-drift levels of dust coating my bookshelf with ferocious vengeance. I vacuumed the floor in wide, cutting jabs. I wiped off the tchotchkes with furious pressure. Hell, I even cleaned the baseboards, laughing maniacally as I sucked hair and skin and dirt -- the detritus of a life unattended -- into oblivion. That's how eager I was to put energy toward restoring order in my life.

I dusted.

What I did not do was donate to relief efforts. Or drive to Baltimore to call for peaceful responses. Or notify newstations about the collapse. Or even take medicine at the early symptoms. On all these occasions I puttered. Hedged. Avoided. What would I add to the conversation? I thought. How can $10 help? Why shouldn't I look out for my own safety? What do I know about it all, anyway?

I was not brave. I saw my role as insignificant, my contributions as futile, and what I saw became reality.

So I dusted. The world is still a mess, and I am still an emotional wreck, but my room is clean for at least the next few days until it's inevitably not. And then I will have to decide again what course of action to take.

Prayer #282: Easy

How easy to give up.

How easy to ignore. Excuse. Hide.

How easy to claim no responsibility, to throw your hands up against the avalanching world and run, knowing that your puny frame is no match for its force.

How easy. Much easier than the hard work of staying. Much easier than the hard work of contributing. Much easier than the hard work of educating yourself and others, confronting tragedy and injustice, and challenging your beliefs and your faith.

How easy to give up.

Easier still never to start.

To the God who knows my hesitation -- push me, trip me, do whatever You need to do to move me forward, as long as I'm not standing here, suspended, unused.