// Teach us to care and not to care //
– T . S . Eliot
I was at a stop light on my way home from work. A man was weaving in-between the cars with a hand written cardboard sign. I didn’t bother to read it. I already knew what it said. I didn’t bother to roll my window down. I didn’t bother to purposefully poke around in my purse and pull out a crumpled bill. To hand it to the man with a smile and a blessing. The light turned green and I did not pause to ponder or respond, I hit go.
It’s barely even Thanksgiving – the season of giving – and already I have “cause” fatigue. Already my inbox and mailbox have been hit up with requests with yellow highlighted paragraphs of dire need.
Living in New York City, I come into regular contact with people asking for money. I have become good at ignoring it. Good at walking past the people whose sidewalk mattress is a piece of ragged cardboard. My son once reminded me, after walking past a homeless man, of what we say at the end of all our church services:
“Go in Peace. Remember the Poor. Serve the Lord.”
And to those words we reply “Thanks be to God.”
My son wanted me to Remember.
To remember that I have much to be thankful for. I have much to give. & also to receive – especially potent words from children.
The truth is – we don’t need another TED talk to tell us why we should care. We don’t need inspirational quotes or hungry envelopes or perfectly prepared excuses.
It’s easy to get cause fatigue. When there are so many things to care about, how do we decide what really matters? What is worth our time? The blur of charity sometimes blinds us to the needs.
I was on the subway and a man walked through the subway car doors and started telling his story. He only wanted some food to eat, please. What struck me was the way his story sounded like a song. The rhythm of words repeated so many times that they ran together in a melancholy melody. I have grown skeptical of stories. Jaded to the passing hat. I didn’t have any food and I didn’t have any time. I went to where I was going – with no clue to the irony that awaited me – to hear a series of talks by prominent local leaders discussing how we could have an impact. How we could know about what’s worth knowing about and care about what’s worth caring about and do something about what’s worth doing something about. It’s called Q Commons and it pried open some jaded places in me and it helped me to see with fresh eyes.
Hours later, with some hastily picked up food for dinner, I got on the subway to go home. The subway car doors opened and the same man’s song continued. The sandwich in my lap burned a hole in my soul as I listened. As he passed by, I extended my hands with the sack. He offered thanks and in my hungry heart I offered thanks for the gift of second chances. For the wisdom of children. For the songs only our hearts can hear. It felt like the smallest of small things. But it felt like a start.
I have decided to Remember. I have decided to care. I have decided to let go of the 101 things that usually cram my brain with their incessant frivolousness. To try.
To extend the season of giving beyond the window of my frayed attention. To take time to explore the causes that have been scabbed over by apathy.
Who are the people and organizations who are doing something about the statistics. How can we illustrate the statistics in a way that pries open the jaded places, and causes us to see the need with fresh eyes. How do we move
Ignorance to Knowledge
Knowledge to Care
Care to Action
Because we are called to Know. We are called to Care. & we are called to Do something about the problems – the issues – the concerns – the causes that we have come to walk by with a certain badge of pride.
In the process, I will be asking more questions than I answer. I pray for an open heart and an open hand. I pray to be reminded that the smallest of small things can make a difference. It’s a start.