Sunday, August 10, 2008

Making a difference in the world: the price tag

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. - Newton
One thing has become plainer to me in recent years: it is impossible to make a meaningful difference in someone else's life without making a meaningful difference in our own lives. It is impossible to make a meaningful difference in the world without being meaningfully different from the world. There is a reason quick fixes don't work -- you know, the kind of fixes that are easy and don't involve much change. And the reason is not that we haven't found the right "quick fix." The reason "quick fixes" don't work is precisely because they're quick fixes. When we weigh them on the scale of "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction", we get what we pay for with a quick fix. It's like a dieter who needs to lose 100 pounds and so skips dessert for a week: Nice sentiment but no real commitment; it's not going to do the job. All the places in which I've made any real difference have been years-long, even lifelong efforts. All the people I've seen who made lasting differences in the world began by being lastingly different themselves.

3 comments:

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

How true, both on the personal level and on the bigger stage. My son used to work at McDonalds. He would come home with a rhye laugh about the people who would order the McNasty and then a diet coke.

I've been reading a lot of blogs from Uganda, where I visited last year. One talked about the do-gooders who come over for a few weeks, with big intentions of helping people and changing thing, but they don't even know what they are going to see before they get there. It is true that one can't appreciate many things without experiencing them.

I have admiration, albeit without knowing a lot of details, of the Catholic priests of old who came to this country and lived and worked in the true wilderness. What faith and what risk taking. I don't know if they made a difference, positively or negatively, in the long run. But they weren't prissy, from-afar priests.

My mother always talked about the equal and opposite reaction...and I think that is why one of my life philosophies is that nothing is all bad or all good, and that everything has a flip side. My kids call me "negative" but I think I'm realistic.

Weekend Fisher said...

That brings back memories. My first roommate in the dorm at college used to go to bed every night after a large-sized chocolate bar and a diet coke. I never could figure that out. I probably don't need to tell you she was overweight. I expect she was just reaching what compromise she was willing to live with -- how much sacrifice she was willing to make.

If living out our faith is a gamble, then are we all playing the nickel slots?

I had a turn being the drive-by do-gooder in Mexico once. I was an irresponsible and clueless kid despite book-smarts, and (looking back on things) I hope I didn't leave things worse than I started.

I've been trying to figure out: how much can I do from my current position in life?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

-C said...
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