For the first time in recent memory, perhaps the first time in my life, I feel helpless. I see the headlines of horror telling what is happening in this world, and I honestly have no good response–no good answers.
I see the shootings, I see the wars, I see the refugees, I see the hunger, I see the poverty, I see the illness…and I don’t know what to do.
I mean, I act. I see what’s going on and I go into motion. I lobby. I teach. I sign letters. I write letters. I make posts. I give donations. I raise money. I pray. And while I don’t believe in an interventionist diety (at least not today, my personal theology is subject to change), I still pray–in part because it serves as an internal reminder to act. To do something. But then I come back to the same helpless feeling of not knowing what to do.
Too many people are dying. Too many people are suffering. And no matter what I do, it doesn’t feel like enough.
I remember my idealism of younger years, in which I felt I could make a difference. I want that back. I want to really believe that, “You and I can change the world,” and that even if I can’t change the whole world, if I change my corner, it will make a real difference.
But that is so, so hard to believe these days.
Tonight, I facilitated a discussion of adults about how we balance the communal and personal needs of worship and prayer. Based on reading from Making Prayer Real, we concluded with an exercise of writing our own psalms. The exercise in the book focused on yearning, but I left the instruction open to those in the class. And those who shared had written beautiful texts of internal prayer. I didn’t share mine, but it was a text of yearning, although I did not expect it to be.
It was a text of wanting what I had once felt. In retrospect, it was a psalm, a poem, a prayer, which expressed my internal need for connection–for the ability to see the world and to do something. And for that action to have meaning.
I want to change the world. I want to take action that matters. I want my prayer to call me to further action that makes a difference. I want to have back that feeling that those things that I do actually change the world.
And I need to believe in a world where that is possible. I need to. It is so hard. And every horrific story of death and destruction and bad things happening makes it so much harder. But I keep trying.
And even in these moments of great doubt, at least I can doubt. And at least I can be angry at that doubt and angry at this world and shed tears and offer primal screams at the horror around me.
And, in the dark moments, I can see a look of pure joy on the face of a child. And I can hear squeals of glee in those children. And listen to adults offer pure and personal insights into the nature of worship. And taste the first bite of latke in this season of miracles and light.
And maybe, from those moments, I can grasp onto hope. I need to. Because I don’t like being hopeless. And I need to keep trying–even when I don’t feel like anything I do is enough.
Because, at some point, it needs to be. Because it’s all I can do. And, really, I have to believe that the world was made with the ability to heal…With the ability of us to heal it.