Today I was given a good reminder, via my dearest mother, that changing the world might look like simply making a very small impact in my own small world.
I'm an idealist, a dreamer– the second I see how things are, especially bad things, I begin to think about how they ought to be or how they could be bettered. My goals as a teenager were moderate– I either wanted to be a concert pianist, or to write a great American novel that would change the world.
The concert-pianist gig didn't really pan out (but check with my younger sister! She's well on her way!) and the novel has been put on the back-burner for now since I've realized that most of the truly great, lasting, classic novels were written by people significantly older than I am (with the notable exception of Pride and Prejudice– Jane was only 21 when she first started writing it, though it wasn't published until almost 20 years later– but since I make no claim to Jane's genius, I think it safer to wait till I'm older).
But I'm still left with my idealistic self, that burns every time I read a new article, or get a new letter, or hear a new story about the darkness in this beautiful, wretchedly sin-stricken world we live in. I want to change something. I want to do something.
And the question of what I ought to do has been on my mind ever since I finished up my last credits for my degree. Children are starving around the world; women are raped and beaten in third-world-countries and in the very city I live in; men are tortured and killed for sharing the faith that gives them hope; war and poverty and disease rip apart whole countries leaving millions of dead and millions who have no way to survive. And sometimes it maddens me that I sit at home and read books and start a book club and make dinner and go and have coffee with my friends.
I told my mother about this turmoil today, and she told me: remember that it is more important to do what you can, than to do nothing just because you can't do something big or famous or flashy.
It's there, isn't it? Even in my desire to help, to take action against evil, to bring healing and light to dark places, there is that secret streak of lust for glory, for fame, for being someone who is known for her goodness. There is that elusive longing for recognition, to do something big so that everyone can know how I changed the world.
But in the economy of Heaven, the last shall be first and the least shall be greatest. Pride will be humbled, and humility will be exalted.
And I realized, looking around me, that there are things I can do right now, with the resources and skills I have right now, where I am right now. They aren't big things and they aren't flashy things. They aren't going to make the news. They aren't going to stop poverty, or end hunger, or make wars cease. They're tiny, everyday things. But maybe that's what takes faith: to believe that when I do the tiny, everyday things, things that might seem occasionally more like inconvenience than sacrifice, simple or even simply mundane– that's what I'm supposed to be doing because that's where I am right now. Because in the end, it's not about my actions, it's about what God can do with a heart willing to trust Him and obey Him in the mundane and the simple. It's about what it looks like to love the people brought to my attention, whether that's children living in poverty half a world away, or a friend in my community with a small need I can meet.
The one line I remember from Gladiator is when Maximus says, "What we do in life echoes in eternity." I think that means all of life– not just the big dramatic things, but all the simple, mundane things in between, the daily choices between selfishness and sacrifice, the tiny ways I can push back against evil in the world... until that day when all things will be made new.