Saturday, October 15, 2011

I can't do it all

Throughout college and beyond, I've made poverty my life. I studied international relations and economics, worked alongside single moms and immigrants, interned at a hunger policy organization, studied in a developing country (while working in an informal settlement), volunteered at a pregnancy resource center, and now work in an inner city school. When I wasn't making it my studies or my work, I was attending seminars, protesting the government, listening to sermons at Mass, or hearing more of my family's story.

What does this mean? It means I take poverty issues very, very personally.

It's gotten to the point where political discussions have a strong emotional component, where ally my conversations lead back to social justice, where I can't sleep because all this stuff drives me crazy.

However, with the help of my fiance, I've realized something crucial.

I just can't do it all.

This isn't to say that I shouldn't make ending poverty the goal of my career or social justice a strong value of mine. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't try to make a difference.

It just means that I can't continue to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders by myself. I can't save the whole world. To think that I can makes me an arrogant fool seeking an early grave. If I want us all to see each other as equal, human beings, who deserve fulfilling lives, I have to remember that I belong in that category.

It means I also need time to take a breath.

It means I need time to contemplate.

It means I should simply enjoy the people in my life and have conversations without losing my head if someone asks me what I think about a certain policy.

It means I should give time to other interests, like my music and my writing-both of which keep me sane.

It means I should take care of myself, that I also need to have a good night's sleep, healthy meals, plenty of water, and at least a few minutes of fitness every day.

It means that, in order to love each person, I must at least love myself.

When I was training to work in rape crisis (before it became too much for me), my trainers made self care a crucial component. Often times, anyone who works in high need areas, especially under high stress conditions, has the tendency to neglect themselves. Mothers often do the same thing with their newborns. The problem with neglecting self care is that, of course, it makes you ineffective. Unfortunately, we also live in a culture that glorifies work and in a time where long hours of work are becoming more necessary to survive. We often glorify heroes while forgetting to think about their needs (as they, obviously, are not-that's what makes them heroes). We need to break this model.

Consider it a call to action. As we obviously cannot do this work by ourselves, we could use some help. Today, I challenge you to pick up that hammer of service. Whether you sign up for a long term program, pick up the trash in your neighborhood, make meals for the homeless, do an act of advocacy, or simply thank those you know who serve in your community, even the smallest act can make the whole world better. You may not be able to give a year but five minutes is the world if it comes from your heart.