8/26/20, Taking Action
Life goes on, with the Covid numbers rising in some places, due to good weather, a need to get out and have some fun and find some relief from the past 6 months, or due to summer travel and vacations. We need to continue to be careful so we can keep a lid on things, and get the Covid numbers (of new cases) down. The ‘good news’ relatively speaking is that there are fewer hospitalized and critically ill cases, and markedly fewer deaths, worldwide, in part because the majority of cases now are among young people—-who think they are invincible and often aren’t careful enough. We are ALL vulnerable to the Corona Virus, young and old, rich or poor, whatever our color or nationality. We need to be careful and follow the rules (simply put: Wash hands, Masks, Distance), for our own sakes, and that of others.
I think the hardest thing that we are all coping with now, and one of the most anxiety producing, is Uncertainty. How long will this go on? Will it get worse? Will there be a second wave? How bad will it get? Will we get sick? Or our loved ones? Will it affect our jobs, our lives, our economy, our health long term? Or will we be one of the lucky ones who are less affected, or not at all? None of us saw this coming. And in March, when it began to impact us, No one expected (or at least I didn’t) that 6 months later, it would become a way of life, and a threat to life as we know it, in every town, village and city, every country around the globe. No country, people, or family has escaped its impact. No one knows how long it will go on. It may just wear itself out, or we may still be battling the same issues a year from now (I hope not!!), but it is the not knowing, the uncertainty of what next week, next month, or next year will look like that I think makes us all nervous and anxious. We all like knowing as much as we can about the future, to reassure us. And for once in our lives, we know nothing about that future. (I love to plan everything, so for planners like me, the constant uncertainty, and plans that go right out the window every day, is an agony.) And the only people who speak with absolute certainty are the alarmist doomsayers who predict terrible things—-when in fact they know as little as you and I do about what’s going to happen. No one knows. It feels like jumping out of an airplane and free-falling, wondering if and when our parachute will open. This crisis WILL end. But we don’t know when. So everything feels uncertain and scary. We all like to have control over our lives and our destiny, and right now we have none. The uncertainty affects everyone, it makes some people panic and others grumpy. We are all scared to some degree. We just have to hang on, be as safe as we can, and wait for it to end. It WILL end. We just don’t know when. And we have to cope with the uncertainty as best we can. Maybe good things will come of this in your life. Maybe a fantastic opportunity will come your way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Good things can come from this as well as bad. It’s good to remember that too. We cannot see the future. Life right now is a trust walk of massive proportions, worldwide.
I always prefer to tread lightly in terms of religion. Not everyone believes in God. Some people believe in the Universe, or the forces of good, or whatever one wants to call the good in one’s life. I respect people’s right to have their own source of comfort and their own belief system, whatever it is called. For me, it is God, for others not. It doesn’t matter. We are all in this together, trying to figure out how best to live through it and stay afloat, and keep our hopes up.
There is an amazing pastor in San Francisco, at Glide Memorial Church. Reverend Cecil Williams. He is an incredible human being, a man of a great age now, with incredible wisdom. He is a man of strong beliefs, who has turned them into action. He has founded an amazing organization to help the poor, the homeless, the desperate, with housing, education, medical help, a food kitchen that feeds thousands daily. Humane, compassionate, wise, strong, he has touched millions of lives, and I’ve had the privilege of knowing him as an amazing human being for many years. Going to a church service at his church is an incredible experience, I almost always take visitors there, —it doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not, or even if you speak English. The (gospel) music alone would transport you, the overwhelming feeling of love and hope embraces you, and you come out floating, wanting to do some good in the world for your fellow man. Cecil Williams is, in my eyes, a modern day saint, and being anywhere in his presence is a gift, whatever your beliefs, or lack of them.
Rev Williams said something which I really love, “We wait for God to act. Maybe God is waiting for us to act.” I love this because it suggests action to solve our problems, not just waiting for a miracle to happen to us, while we eat bonbons and watch our favorite show on TV. We have a part in it, and a role to play. I DO believe in miracles and unexpected good things happening—-and even good things happening from bad things. But I also believe in action, and sometimes while we act (even when we feel paralyzed by fear and think we can barely take another step), the miracles happen then. Bigger than we ever hoped for or expected. Sometimes if we just take baby steps, the big fantastic blessings come. And when I’m upset, or scared, or sad, or anxious, or feel lost, being busy DOING something (anything, even something very small) has helped me.
I’ve seen several examples of it in my own life. At 14, my oldest daughter had an accident on her motorized bicycle, weeks before she was to begin high school. She badly damaged her knee, and had a terrible wound. We didn’t know it then, but it was a life changing event. A month later, infection set in and she almost lost her leg. Seven years of excruciating pain, wheel chairs and crutches and operating tables ensued, seemingly hopeless. The nerves in her leg were damaged, and it was thought to be irreversible. She went all through high school and most of college, with incredible determination, and in terrible pain. She couldn’t walk. Finally, the right doctor and her own determination healed her, and at 21, she walked back into the world. Today, she hikes, skis, ice skates, runs, and wears high heels, and is not in pain. But the miracle was not only her healing, or finding the right doctor. The miracle was MUCH bigger than that. Fighting constant pain, and not wanting to live in a haze of pain killers, one doctor said to her :”Find someone suffering more than you are, and help them”. She took it to heart. And at 15, she volunteered (in her wheel chair) at a pediatric cancer ward, and her life changed forever. She fell in love with the work and the dedication, and volunteered at a summer camp for kids with cancer too. From it came a career as a therapist and social worker for children with cancer, many of them terminal. She got graduate degrees from Princeton, Columbia, Stanford and the Sorbonne. Working in pediatric oncology became her mission and her life, and became a passion and a rewarding career once she grew up. After living through her own dark times, of terrible uncertainty, fear, pain and even despair, she helped thousands of children and their families, and eventually she was healed herself. I can’t even imagine the courage it took her to keep moving forward in the darkness of her own experience. It was a lifelong lesson, of courage and an overwhelming demonstration of taking action, when we are at the lowest point ourselves.
The lesson it taught stayed with me, and when my son died at 19, I thought of what she’d done with her cancer work. I was in the deepest despair 3 months after he died, and tried to think of who I could help, who was more miserable than I was then. (It was hard to imagine anyone who felt worse than I did then).I reached out to the homeless in the streets of San Francisco, took a van and an employee, filled the van with sleeping bags, warm jackets, knit caps, scarves and gloves, and spent long nights handing them out to homeless people in the worst areas of SF. It grew to a major project, I formed a street outreach team of 12, with 4 vans we filled with desperately needed supplies and drove the streets of SF by night, helping whoever we could. It became 2 foundations, and we did the work anonymously on the streets for 11 years, until I moved away. I have to tell you that it was the most joyous thing I have ever done. It was a project born in the darkest despair which blossomed into a mission of love, which helped thousands of people. I don’t think anything I’ve done, other than having my children, has ever meant more to me. When I felt the least able to, somehow I took action, and it didn’t just help me, it helped thousands of people in desperate need of help. There will always be people in the world more miserable than we are, and reaching out to them is life changing for you and for them. It doesn’t have to be a grand project, or take an organization….reaching out to one sad, lonely, sick or desperate person can change their life and yours, and take the focus off your own miseries. you don’t have to be a modern day saint, or even have religious beliefs, reaching out with a smile, a kind hand, a gesture, rescuing a person, an animal, smiling at someone who may be at the edge of despair and you don’t know it is a form of action that will change your life, and make that day, that moment worthwhile, and give your life meaning. An errand, a favor, a meal handed to a homeless person, a kind word, a moment thinking of their problems, not your own, will make the fear or sadness you’re living with different. It’s a way of taking action, even the tiniest gesture matters, and you have no idea what can come of it, maybe something extraordinary for you or someone else.
Right now, in the anxiety of the pandemic, my youngest daughter learned to tie dye some T shirts to keep busy and distracted. I’m watching her one time past time turn into a really fun business for her in the past month. She has taken orders from her friends, their friends, and she has filled roughly 300 orders in the past month. The shirts are really pretty, she’s added sweat shirts, shorts, jeans, and jeans jackets now. But her attempt to keep busy and distracted is turning into a real business for her, for however long it lasts, and she is having a ball with it. Who knows, it may turn into a real business that will outlast the pandemic. But in the meantime, it has turned dark days of fear and uncertainty into busy days filled with joy. It has turned things around for her, and inspires me to watch her.
Action. The possibilities are endless. Bake a cake for a neighbour, buy a sandwich for a homeless person, do a project you’ve wanted to do for ages and never had the time. Empty a closet full of junk, and sell it, and your junk may be someone else’s treasures, and make you some money. Make a collage, drop a note to a friend, call an older person who is lonely and has no family, or is far from theirs. Rescue a dog, do some kind of volunteer work, or a paid project, or take a time-out from your own miseries to show a stranger or a friend that you care. Taking action always helps me when I’m at my worst, and most fearful, or unhappy or sad. It’s worth a shot. We’ve got more time on our hands than usual right now. And whoever you help will come back to you a hundred fold in the joy it gives you. And some funny little project like baking cookies, or making jam, or creating something could turn into a lucrative business. I think some important things happen in life, in these weird, unusual circumstances that are presented to us. And if nothing else, it will get you through these scary, uncertain times. While others are figuring out how to cure the virus, and find a vaccine, you can do something that seems to be tiny, for yourself or someone else, and it could turn out to be huge. Working with the homeless was the most meaningful thing that ever happened to me, at the absolute worst time in my life. And a smile and a kind word to a stranger could turn out to be an important moment for you, which turns things around. We have to reach for the opportunities right now, no matter how scared and anxious we are. And that moment you spend doing it, may change someone else’s life, and surely yours.
Have a Great week, and seize every opportunity you can. EVERY moment counts, to someone else, and to you.
with much love, Danielle
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What an encouragement in this “special” time! We all need it at moment.
Thank you so much, Danielle!
God bless you and the World!
Love from Melbourne, Australia
Thank you Danielle for such an encouraging message. I have experienced very similar things in my life and know how important faith and action are .
Also, your books have given me a wonderful “escape” during lockdown as you’ve “taken” me around the world. and I’ve learned so much .
Love from Janet, Hampshire , England
Thank you for all this, Danielle.
You are a blessing.
I agree with your message:”And that moment you spend doing it, may change someone else’s life, and surely yours.”
The best time in my life was when I traveled to Mexico and taught English. I was the only teacher who taught a lesson along with the English language. Traveling to Guatemala was an adventure too.
My suicide prevention work blessed me as well by helping others.
I just finished watching the Kindness Diaries on Netflix after reading your post a few days ago. You may want to watch a few of the episodes when you have time. The author left a job as a stockbroker because he felt empty. He hen traveled the globe to highlight the good in humanity with his message of kindness and Hope. Beautiful series. Check it out.
God bless us all!
For two years I have been reading and responding to your weekly blogs. For me this one gets a 5 star rating!!! Thank you for trying so very hard to give us hope during this extremely discouraging time in our country.
What you write here is wonderful. I like your vivacious style. I didn’t know anything about you. A friend from Rwanda (a survivor from the 1994 genocide) mentioned your name. We usually speak French together. A few years ago she was determined to get some qualifications to improve her prospects both financial and professional. She had a menial clerical job at her local diocesan offices. Her bishop did not want her to do so but one priest advised her to just go for it, and so she did. The only place she could enroll at was in Uganda and that is where she began to study English. Things did not work out there so she found a place on a course at the university of Narobi in Kenya and after a couple of years got an MA in library administration which included a study on book digitization. When she returned to her post in Rwanda she did not even get a pay rise, but this does not deter her from cultivating inner peace and joy through her faith. This long-winded introduction leads me into expalining why Marie-Michèle brought up your name. I was talking about audio books (which I have in quantity) that I might send her. She said she was very keen to keep up her English since nobody in her entourage spoke it and asked me if I could get audio books written by you. I have my sources, so I managed to download some 68 books of yours! I am transferring them to my cloud address from where she’ll be able to download them. Some of the title of your books attracted me so I decided to find out more about you. I read the spiel on Wikipedia. One of the critiques was that you seem to spell out every little detail to the reader preventing him/her from “living the plot”. I’m so glad that I came accross this personal blog of yours because – au contraire – your writing is alive and as real as it can get! So much for Wikipedia’s assessment! So anyway, I wish you & yours well, and to remain with the subject of your advice not to worry about this tragic virus situation, I’ll end with this common saying:
Yesterday is history;
Tomorrow is a mystery;
Today is a gift….
That’s why it’s called: “the present”.