May 2015

Dear all,

Do you ever feel helpless? I do.
I feel helpless as I watch footage of people coping with natural disasters like the two (at time of writing) earthquakes in Nepal. To have one piled on another just doesn’t seem right. 
I feel helpless when I read about climate change and the ways in which the world is being exploited – Ethiopia now does not have enough water. Bangladesh has far too much. Both have devastating effects. Both the result of climate change.
I feel helpless when I hear about someone who is struggling with serious illness – it can seem so random and unfair.

I feel helpless a lot of the time.
And “why does God let these things happen” is a question that often comes to mind when feeling overwhelmed by events I see and hear about.
I feel quite helpless trying to find an answer to that one.
(In case you are wondering too, the nearest I get to an answer that satisfies me is “I don’t know. But I do know that free will is important and comes with some consequences. And I do feel that even in the worst of it, God is there – in the rescuing people from the rubble; in the campaigning for change; in the wonders of modern science and the quiet hand holding by the bed side”)   

I still feel helpless though.
But I try not to feel hopeless.
It isn’t easy.

I have a little note on my pin board that helps – it says
Do not feel totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything. That’s my job. Love God”
It reminds me that I may not be able to change big things, but that I can do little things that will stop me feeling helpless. And remind me to have hope.
I can give a little money (that feels like a lottery win to some of the poorest in the world)
I can campaign for climate change and do my small part in making a difference with recycling and walking/using public transport rather than driving the car.
I can pray and send cards so that people don’t feel alone.

And if I do these things and still feel helpless,
Well, I remember the story of the starfish, by Loren Eiseley.

Once upon a time, an old man was walking along the beach after a big storm had passed and found the shoreline littered with starfish as far as the eye could see. 
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy. As he grew closer, the man could see that the boy was occasionally bending down to pick up something up and throw it into the sea.  
Growing closer still the man saw that the boy was throwing starfish back into the sea
“Why are you doing that?” asked the man. “The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man said, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the sea. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

We can make a difference – we are not helpless. We are not hopeless. We can be the answer to prayer. One small step (or starfish) at a time.