Friday, December 4, 2009

I can't fix everything

I admit it.  I often cringe when I hear the word charity.  It conjures up in me images of all that I am not doing.  I often feel helpless when I think of the pain in the world that I cannot fix.  I have a very clear memory of seeing a homeless man on the street when I was 18 and feeling bereft.  How could I help all of these suffering people in the world?  This led me to a degree in Social Work (which by no means helped my feelings of inadequacy and the inequity in the world!).

 St. Augustine as represented by Botticelli, ca. 1480
I have carried this quote by St. Augustine with me for years:
"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you." 
It has comforted me and reassured me that there are things that I can do.  I can't do it all, but I can do something and focus on those within my realm.

This year my realm is in greater need.  I look around me and see the pain and fear and hopelessness that those with whom I am in closer connection are experiencing.  And I can't fix it.   
Photograph of Anne Morrow Lindbergh by Cordes of New York. Missouri History Museum
Anne Morrow Lindbergh said,
"My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds."

In the past, this quote was one of my favorites. 
This year it just seems to represent my limitations.
Breathe.  Just breathe.

 Marvin J. Ashton
Last night a new quote touched me, it is by Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994): 
"Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself.  And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again."
I will ponder this.  And I will not cringe this year when I hear the word charity.  And I can do only what I can do.  But I can do.  And I can care.  And listen.  And love.
And pray.

 Thorvaldsen's Christus by Bertel Thorvaldsen (19 November 1770 – 24 March 1844)

Charity, the Pure Love of Christ
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."

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