What Can We Do When We Feel There Is Nothing We Can Do?

What Can We Do When We Feel There Is Nothing We Can Do?

What can we do when we feel “there is nothing we can do?” When we feel helpless and afraid after what happened in Paris, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. And that’s just in the last few weeks. Here in the bustle and busy-ness of the holidays, amid the wealth and commerce […]

What can we do when we feel “there is nothing we can do?” When we feel helpless and afraid after what happened in Paris, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. And that’s just in the last few weeks.

Here in the bustle and busy-ness of the holidays, amid the wealth and commerce that pervade our culture, we find ourselves in the wake of terror and violence. We all of us face fear, sadness, and grief, all of which are heightened during the holidays.

I find myself thinking, what can I do?

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The table beside my “quiet chair” is graced by a bouquet from a dear friend.

Our day-to-day lives are so full of family, work, and community responsibilities that there isn’t room for much else. Moreover it’s just not practical or possible for most of us to join the Marines, or work in refugee camps, or become priests, or be Bono.

We must content ourselves with ourselves; unless as someone once said, we can be Batman, in which case always be Batman.

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Quince branches in my former New York apartment.

And then I remind myself that we affect the world with every single thing we think, say, and do.

What can we do? We can lend a hand right in our own little town or big city. We can lend an ear, or a shoulder. We can visit a family member who is lonely. We can run an errand for a friend whose child is sick. We can pull someone out of a ditch. We can make a stranger feel welcome. We can be kind.

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Sisters out for a ride at the ranch. Photo by Allison Dittmer.

We can embrace beauty. 

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Dinner in the olive grove at Rancho la Zaca.
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The lovely chandelier and marble-papered ceiling in my sister’s powder room.

We can move with grace.

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A dragonfly alights on the hand of the Horticulture Society of New York’s George Pisegna, in the rooftop gardens of the Waldorf Astoria, New York.

We can act with integrity. We can say yes to whatever integrity means for us. And just as importantly, we can say no.

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“We’ve been through a lot together and most of it was your fault.” Snapped at the Country Living magazine fair this fall and wish I could remember the artist. (If you’re out there, let me know, I want to credit cute, clever you.)

We can, as the line in a Christmas hymn goes, let the soul feel its worth.

It goes without saying, perhaps, but we can wear elf ears.

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With George and Mary Jones at the Montgomery, Alabama, Curb Market a few weeks ago.

We can pray of course. We can pray for peace, and we can pray for the comfort of those who are suffering.

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A splendid chapel in Kotor, Montenegro, where we visited this summer.

We can, as God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Quan Yin, and all of ’em would have it, we can make our lives about love. And as the new Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in his installation speech, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” To which the entire National Cathedral would have shouted  AMEN if  they did that in the Episcopal  Church, which they do not. But they wanted to then.

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A friend’s heart-shaped rock collection inspired me to start one of my own. This is hers. I love the light.

We can do what brings us joy. We can play sports or play music or sing or dance or cook or read or tell a naughty joke (one of my personal favorites).

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A little football Thanksgiving weekend at Rancho la Zaca. Photo by friend Amy Stuart Gordon.

All the joy we feel goes out into the world.

We can have fun.

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Pure joy. Piper, the newest addition to our family.

By our own examples of kindness, gratitude, integrity, grace, and joy, however great or small, we can set examples for others. We can shine a light for others. We can bring light to the world.

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The Pantheon in Rome, visited earlier this year.

We can be a force for good.

That is what we always can do.

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The ever inspiring drive home along Foxen Canyon Road outside Los Olivos, California.

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