A World in Need
These past couple of weeks have seemed overwhelming. Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Floods in South Asia. Mudslides in West Africa. Earthquake in Mexico. And we are currently in the midst of historic Hurricane Irma as it is making landfall in the Caribbean and Florida.
Out of a real sense of compassion we then respond in the ways we know how: we take out our checkbooks and offer our prayers, maybe even join the relief efforts if we are able. But, if we are honest, we are also asking “how do we go from one major crisis to another without being completely depleted? Can I really care about everything?”
How do we respond as leaders without going mad?
If I Cared About Anything
In the 1990’s there was a movie starring Drew Barrymore called “Ever After” that supposedly told the “real” version of Cinderella, a beloved children’s tale that has since relegated down to talking mice and magic pumpkins. The story is set in the beginning of the Enlightenment era of France, where political intrigues and utopian ideals are set. Prince Henry is unsure of who he is and really has no desire to be king, until he meets “Danielle” (Cinderella), a servant girl disguised as a courtier. Throughout the movie Danielle inspires Henry to use the position handed to him to do good for the society around him.
In one particular scene, Prince Henry exclaims,
“I used to think that if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad. But, now I have found my purpose! It is a project actually inspired by you. And I feel the most wonderful freedom.”
Prince Henry goes on to build a university where anybody can study regardless of their station, even the outcast gypsies.
Lord, have mercy!
Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes. “Lord, have mercy!” we cry. “How can we help?” we ask.
Then there’s the usual amount of needs. Poverty in Latin America. Sex trafficking in Europe. Orphans in China. Or whatever political issue we feel passionate about, many of which are fundamentally about cries for justice. “Lord, have mercy!” we cry. “How can we help?” we ask.
Of course, there’s also the personal stuff. Alcoholism tearing apart families. Cancer, heart disease, and various forms of dementia requiring high levels of care. Research money needed for a specific disease that currently has no cure. Mental health problems. “Lord, have mercy!” we cry. “How can we help?” we ask.
“Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours,” we pray. But let’s be honest, shall we? We’re tired. We’re fatigued. But we brace ourselves for the next “crisis” and pray for more faith. After all, it’s not our home that is catching on fire, so a little compassion is needed, yes?
There’s no shortage of needs out there. If I cared about anything, I’d have to care about everything and I’d go stark raving mad. But, if I don’t take up every cause out there somehow I am labeled “not Christian” enough. That’s not very helpful either.
So, what do we do with this?
What happens when we are inundated by the “needs” of the world?
What we need in these times are leaders. Leaders who are willing to stand up and invite the Holy Spirit to help us think strategically about where we put our energy and our cause. We need leaders who will think strategically about how to respond so that we are being proactive rather than reactive. But our job as leaders is also to think strategically about how to inspire others to join us and to use the resources that we have been given for the greater good.