Mother Teresa supposedly said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." Of course, she proved herself wrong, but she could not imagine what an example she would set for the rest of us.
Then there is the example of Jesus. "Be perfect, just as my heavenly Father [and I] is[/are] perfect." Yes, that's in the Bible, with my brackets added. Jesus exhausted himself trying to minister to people. Hardly got any sleep, didn't eat much, got up at all hours to pray, and the like. He even got a little gripey a few times, no doubt due to his human body just not being able to handle the strain. And the result? Died a martyr at about 33 years of age, after an anguished, sleepless night and just three years of ministry. Thanks a lot, Jesus! You are a really hard act to follow.
Although, in terms of ratio of lifespan spent in ministry, his was about 1/11 -- one year of every 11 lived. The rest of time he was growing in wisdom and knowledge.
Then there is the Buddha. I was reading an interesting history of Buddhism online (actually, I ran across it while I was blogging here and trying to rapidly, painlessly decrease my ignorance level of Buddhism). It said that when the Buddha became enlightened, he thought to himself, these things I have learned cannot possibly be expressed in words, and no one will understand, even if I tried to explain. I think he was exactly right! So he decided to spend the rest of his life sitting under a tree in his perfectly enlightened state.
And I guess it would have all ended there, except that some Hindu god beamed down and told the Buddha he had to teach others what he had learned.So the Buddha attempted to do so. His first attempt was to tell another person who was also working on enlightenment that he, Buddha, was now perfectly enlightened. While this was a true statement, it did not go over so well with the not-quite-enlightened one, who had noticed that the Buddha had not been toeing the line of complete self-denial just prior to the time when he went off and got enlightened. So perfect truth, while true, is not always wise. I guess.
But I guess the Buddha got better with getting his message out, and does have several million followers. Nothing like Christianity, mind you, but he didn't have anything like the Great Commission in his message (go out and make disciples of all nations ...).
So, who should I emulate? I really feel more like sitting under that tree than going out and ministering to a bunch of difficult people with all their problems. I don't literally want to sit under a tree -- I'm not that enlightened! -- but I would like to live my life and not have to worry too much about how everyone else is doing.
What I intended to say in today's post is that there are small ways to help that are still meaningful. Since most of us do worry, at least a little, about the suffering of other people and our world.
Maybe one of the very best small ways to help is to act in a loving manner toward others, as often as possible ... always, if that is possible. And remember: All things are possible with God. Love everything that has breath, and everything that lives, and everything else.
Since I have a major concern about the condition of the world, I help recycle at the two places where I work. I have recycled a whole lot of paper that would have gone into the dumpster in a rural town where there is no recycling. I also recycle the paper at my other workplace. We also recycle in our house, though we have not been able to give up on paper products, just reduce the amount that we depend on them.
I carpool as much as possible. Perhaps I've mentioned before, it seems like it, that I take shorter and colder showers than ever before in my life. Though the "cold" part is relative, now that we've had a few cold fronts come through and chill us down below 70 degrees here in South Texas! Turn off the faucet while washing hands. Use reusable grocery bags, yadda yadda yadda. Really basic lifestyle changes like that can save thousands of gallons of water, or lots of plastic. The effect would become exponential if everyone did it. These types of things are so easy.
I think that service like this is more helpful than being on a thousand church committees could ever be, though there are people who love that kind of service. Which is why I refused to be the next Finance Committee chair at church. I'm not cut out to go to a bunch of meetings. Ha! The power of saying no! I finally discovered how wonderful it is to decide for myself how to use my gifts.
And my wonderful sis, who knows me well, pointed out that it's very important to be compassionate at home, with family and self, rather than just worrying about people in Third-World or war-ravaged countries. And, may I add, it's much harder. The people I live with can be so much more irritating and undeserving of compassion -- and ungrateful! -- than starving orphans I've never met.
I think many people feel overwhelmed, like their life is hard enough, and they don't feel like they can add on a lot of service to others. But what is so overwhelming? I think, in many cases, it is overscheduling and being too focused on little details of daily life that, in the big scheme of things, don't matter. Buddhists claim that nothing much matters. Even death is not dying, but transition. Suffering isn't what we think, either. It is largely (though not entirely) self-created. I think it's just a hazard of being trapped in a human body. Hey, Christians also believe that dying is not the end. Or at least, they claim to, until they or a loved one are personally involved in dying.
The important question is, what does matter? And then, why don't I focus my attention and energy on that? The answer is different for everyone, I believe.
Let me try to describe a small moment of revelation I had when I was a lot younger. I was lying on my back, looking up at the sky. Now, this is such a cool way to view the world that I would recommend it to anyone, including the Buddha. The sky is the closest thing to infinity we have here, and it is jaw-dropping gorgeous when you just look at it. And clouds are the most wonderful, ever-changing art palette. Their colors, and shades of light and dark, are infinitely varied.
I must have been a teenager at this time. I remember there was a lot of turmoil in my life, or so it seemed. (Hormones.) I remember being angry at God all the time, back then. I never stopped believing in him, but I was so mad!
So I looked, and watched the clouds, and realized that all of my life's drama would never touch them, move them, or change them one iota. The clouds don't care about me!! At all! They don't care about you, either! They will keep doing what they're doing. (At least unless we destroy the world, but that was not in my thoughts that day.) I felt a moment of great release, that I could drift with the clouds for a while and have that far-ranging perspective, with no expectations, no judgment, no "to-do" list, no passing of time, and leave my petty little problems far, far behind.
Pastor Janet said something that sounded enlightened to me. She does that, from time to time. She said that some other pastor said, when he had a particularly busy and hectic day of service work, "I need to spend a lot of time praying today." Substitute the word meditating if you wish.
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