I read last week that there are 65.3 million refugees in the world. 65.3 million.
It blew my mind a little bit, and not in a good way. California has a population of 39 million. There are more global refugees right now than there are people in California. (And as someone who drives in the insane traffic of southern California, let me tell you – there are MORE than enough people in California!)
You’ve probably heard about compassion fatigue – the concept that we all care a little bit less about each tragedy that comes because there are SO MANY that they just wear us down. We can’t possibly care about everything and everyone who is struggling, can we?
In college my roommates and I volunteered for Heifer International. Heifer is an organization that gives animals (and training to care for, raise, and sell their offspring, milk, or eggs) to people in the developing world to help them lift themselves out of poverty. We raised a good bit of money doing it and had a blast to boot.
(We also got to sit in the front row when Bono visited our college, which is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but that’s another story for another time.)
But when I think about compassion fatigue, I think about the time we met with older student leaders to pitch them on helping us pitch Heifer to the larger student body. Two guys I deeply respected listened to us and then looked us straight in the eyes and said:
“I don’t know how you can spend time working for Heifer when there is such a serious famine in eastern Africa.”
A long, awkward pause ensued.
We were dumbfounded. But since we were sophomores and they were seniors, we decided to drop Heifer and focus on the famine instead.
For about ten minutes.
Then we realized – hey, there are lots of people who need help, and maybe God calls different people to different areas of expertise, focus, and love. We couldn’t run a college Heifer chapter and famine relief, but we could launch Heifer and let them launch the famine relief. God cared about both, but we had to focus on one.
The same is true today. We can and should pray for the world. We can and should do what we can to work for justice everywhere and anywhere we can. But we also have to listen to the work of the Spirit in our individual hearts. Where is God calling you to love and serve? We can’t do everything. We often can’t even do a bunch of things. But we can all do something.
Mother Theresa is said to have put it this way:
Not all of us can do great things. But all of us can do small things with great love.
Last year one California mom heard about the refugee crisis in Europe and decided to focus on doing one small thing–helping moms get carriers to help transport their babies. Can you imagine carrying an infant or toddler in your arms for miles and miles, and perhaps even trying to hold onto them in a flimsy boat across a raging sea? It’d add so much fatigue, stress, and fear to an already nearly impossible journey.
So this mom founded Carry the Future, an organization dedicated to getting used and new baby carriers into the hands of those who needed them so desperately. It’s a small niche, but it was on her heart. Since 2015 organization has donated thousands of carriers to moms (and dads!) who can now easily keep their little ones close to their hearts as they seek new, safe homes.
It’s one beautiful example of the difference one person can make when they respond to a focused need.
Our world is full of crisis. Our neighborhoods are full of hardships. We can’t do everything, but we can each do something. Maybe your calling isn’t animals or baby carriers. But you do have a calling. Don’t let compassion fatigue have the last word. Pray, focus, give, and love. Say no to most things, but say yes to the thing God sets before you.
The statistics are staggering, but the love of Jesus for this crazy world is even more staggering still.
Where is he leading you to serve?
[This site is in no way affiliated with Heifer International or Carry the Future. The thoughts expressed above are solely the author’s and no offer is being solicited from the reader. Though if you want to support either organization, they’re both pretty awesome, in the author’s opinion.]