Last week I attended a retreat and came home infused with quiet calm and well-being. Then I glanced at the headlines in the newspaper and was shocked anew at the unimaginable depth of pain in this world. The scope of suffering is inconceivable. How can we respond in the face of this?
Where do we begin to do good? I will tell you the only way I know to begin.
Empty the full hampers, sort and wash the laundry without resentment or commentary.
Sweep the floor of dust, mud and crumbs at your feet.
Don’t ask who made the mess.
At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.
Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.
On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.
Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids on the sidewalk stand. Tell them to keep the change.
Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.
Smile at him. It might well be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.
Write a thank you letter. Yes, a letter. If you do not have a reason to write one, do it without a reason.
Do not fight with your partner, your roommate, your spouse, or your children. If that seems impossible, just do not engage in the next fight, and don’t worry about the one that comes after. It might not come.
Do not try to convince anyone else of your point of view. That’s why they call it “point” of view. The point is just you.
If you feel yourself tensing in frustration, no matter what the circumstance, say, “I’m sorry.”
Do not indulge in despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.
Make yourself at home and take care of it as your own. It’s the only one there is.