Thursday, August 4, 2011

Water in the desert

Many of us have heard a story similar to this imaginary scenario: In heaven, having an honest conversation with God, we ask him, "Why did you allow so much suffering in the world?" God pauses, answering without the slightest trace of sarcasm, looks us in the eyes: "I could ask you the same thing."

Obviously, we're not God. Not even close. But we're not helpless, either. While many problems of suffering cannot be fixed or quickly alleviated, we can often still do something. For every problem? we ask, incredulously. Sometimes the problems in our own lives, the ones in our own homes, are overwhelming enough that it's hard to look out beyond our front door. And when we do, we're literally bombarded with tragedies of human suffering, animal suffering, suffering of all creation. We shake our heads, eyes beginning to glaze over, But what can we do that will make a dent in all this...?

I know. Because I've been there, lived there, and still visit there, time and time again. Opening the door to the suffering of others and then, upon seeing the magnitude, eventually shutting it again to catch my breath. When I catch myself feeling fatigued by suffering, I have to remind myself: "I can't fix this. But something is better than nothing." Whether that something be money given, resources shared, my time offered as a gift, writing a story to raise awareness, or offering prayers (which I always have to give), more often than not, I have a little something I can give. Not to every single problem, but to the ones that I open my heart to.

From that perspective, when I think of the drought and resulting famine spreading through east Africa, I know I have something to give. Several gifts, actually. They may be small, but they are something. Just a drop of water in the desert. And when I think of hundreds of us giving our little drops of water together, what we have is a lot of water for a lot of thirsty people. Imagine that. It's nothing to scoff at.

My encouragement is this: Let's not dismiss our little gifts or despise our small beginnings. Even just one life spared is infinitely worth the effort of giving. And who knows, but that God may be waiting for us to bring him our little offerings so he can multiply them.

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