I wanted to share a quote that I found recently while reading one of the e-mails that I receive through Dynamic Catholic; it reads:
“We cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. We cannot save everyone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save some. Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. And what we can do, all of us, is make small sacrifices, and simplify our lives in some small ways so that others may simply live.”
Throughout my time with VVC, I have struggled with the amount of hardship I have seen our neighbors face, the social justice issues I have come to learn more about and sometimes the hopelessness and immense weight from all of this that I feel. I may not be the person directly facing these issues, but this feeling drives me to want some larger societal change. However, there are times where it all seems like so much that I don’t know where to start or how I could even make any sort of difference.
Now, that’s where this quote comes in…
I’m starting to learn that no matter what big changes I want to see in society or be a part of, I need to start small. I need to focus on the individuals I meet and finding some way to help them that may only work once, but I also need to think about finding avenues through which it could potentially influence their everyday life.
If there are ways I can help individuals or families, then that is better than if I never worked to serve my neighbors and their needs at all. Seeing the smile on someone’s face after talking with them or the joy I hear in their voice when saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer together reminds me that I am doing what I can do. It is in those brief moments that I know I am not allowing what I cannot do interfere with being present to the people and experiences right before me.
Starting small means I am present to my neighbors in need who I encounter every day. I know I can work to directly serve someone through home visits or walk with them through the Choice Food Pantry. I can listen to and share their stories.
Starting small includes educating myself about a particular issue and then sharing that knowledge with my friends, family, coworkers, etc. so that they are able to do the same. The more people who know about an issue, the more they are able to make informed decisions for promoting change in their own lives and others. It’s those small changes that can make a whole world of difference for another who is struggling.
Finding a place to start could be as simple as determining the issue I am most passionate about.
At this point, I cannot confidently say that there is one issue that stands out for me from the rest when it comes to advocating for change, but my mind has been focused most recently on food insecurities for families. After having a discussion about food injustice with my VVC community and Maura, I find myself looking at where my food comes from, the nutritional value it holds, and the cost of getting all the ingredients used to the dinner table. I have the opportunity to think about these things and make choices as to what I do eat, but not everyone has that chance. For many of the neighbors that I have encountered, there are times where they are simply grateful to know they will have food on the table for their next meal after visiting our Choice Food Pantry.
There is a little girl named Gracie that I have had the pleasure of seeing a couple times, and being able to sing and dance with her as she waits for her mother to go through our pantry intake process always brightens my day. But it also saddens me to think about how this little girl that is so full of joy and life may not have food to eat next week. I wonder what can be done to give her family the peace of mind to know they will always have food for their next meal. And not only that they have food, but filling, healthy food that will support their minds and bodies as they go about their day.
I know food pantries can act as something to fall back on when families are in need, but my constant question is: what can I do or what can others do to prevent families from getting tangled in that safety net? What can be done to provide them with some sort of food security?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I know I need to get to the root of a situation, explore it and then work to expose and transform that root. Then as the root influences the different branches it connects to, it results in some sort of change instead of continuing to support the injustice. Keeping the big picture in mind is important when it comes to wanting to make a change, but I also can’t let it discourage me.
And in the midst of it, I can’t forget to just be present to the people right in front of me. To put a face and a name to these issues and the impact these systems have on them.
After all, “we cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.”
Amy Noser splits her time between our Ozanam Center for Service Learning and working with group and individual Volunteers to come to SVDP. In the midst of it all, Amy takes in all that she is experiencing – from her encounters with our neighbors who come to us looking for assistance to the conversations we have during weekly reflection. We know Amy has been paying attention, as her eating habits have shifted after our conversation on food justice…she sometimes eats her vegetables in the middle of her meals now, and not just before to get it over with!