It is an overwhelming time to be a person. Wildfires, persistent and systemic racial injustice, a pandemic, the upcoming election. On top of the psychological and emotional taxation of these realities, we have our own personal lives to live. We continue to work or look for work, live in prolonged isolation, cook and clean and move our bodies, engage with loved ones who see the external crises from a confusing, or even hurtful, perspective.
It’s a lot.
While we might feel pressure to take dramatic action in reaction to each crisis, we are overwhelmed by a deep understanding of our limitations. Instead of focusing on intense spurts of reactive effort, we can think about steady, sustainable engagement that can build over time. Spending the bulk of our bandwidth on the former leads to burn out. But the latter creates a foundation to draw from when the crises happen. We are able to commit with integrity and a long-term perspective.
If you earnestly desire to live an engaged life, but don’t know where to start, here are three tips.
Start with one or two.
This doesn’t mean you only care about one or two things, and this doesn’t mean that you put on blinders to everything else. But if you want to be an active participant in the restoration of our world, it’s helpful to start by looking around and paying attention. It can be easier to rant on social media than to engage with the person experiencing homelessness you pass by on the street every day or attend a town council meeting. We have all been sent to particular places among particular people with particular gifting. Start where you are.
Don’t make your one thing “singlehandedly reform the infrastructure of Manhattan.” When I started working as a writer, I had the dream of publishing a best-selling book. I still have that dream, but my first step wasn’t to sit down and write 50,000 words to put into the hands of the masses. My first step was to start having conversations with people about my idea. This helped me learn and gave me a better idea of the stepping stones to getting the book into the world. Consider, instead, a couple of small habits you can implement daily, weekly, or monthly that will build on each other.
Invite someone along.
This is the secret sauce. Just because you don’t have a built-in partner does not mean you have to do the thing alone. And, even if you were married, that wouldn’t guarantee that your spouse would have the same goals and passions as you. Maybe you know someone who is also an initiative taker who would be interested in exploring where they might be called to engage. Ask them if they would be interested in joining you in your one small thing.
We don’t have to do a whole big thing and we don’t have to wait. Let's start where we are with what we have. Let's take small faithful steps toward that thing. And then let's build from there.