Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Big Enough Lever

How does one help the homeless, I wonder? Not too long ago, I showed up in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square with several sacks of Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches, and handed them out to the homeless there. I've done this on a couple of occasions, but I find myself wondering what, if anything, that I have actually accomplished. Yes, I understand that providing a meal, even a small one, to someone who didn't know where their next meal was going to come from is to so them a service, but I can't get away from the feeling that it helps me more than it helps them.

And thus, I feel selfish.

But I suppose that this is the issue with such a large problem. What really CAN you do to even make a dent in it? The people that I gave sandwiches to... they're still out there, more than likely, sleeping in doorways and on park benches. And likely, many of them have gone to sleep hungry. And if they're lucky, that's the worst of their problems.

And I understand why so many people simply disengage.

Working at this in a singular way doesn't do what you want it to do. It doesn't give you the feeling that you're making things better. It's simply too big for that. And so instead, it simply reminds you of how large the issue is, and how small you are.

But they tell you that one person can change the world.

And so I'll do it again sometime. But I don't know that I understand why. I'm just being stubborn, I guess, and refusing to give into the intellectual idea that it doesn't make a difference. That the world isn't any different than it was before I went down there. Perhaps that's what it takes to change the world. The stubborn refusal to let it sink in that the world is too large for you to change it. I don't know. I guess I'm okay with not changing the world, at least to some degree. But to another degree, I'm not okay with it. I want the world to change, and so I tilt at windmills in what I know to be a vain attempt to change it. And I'm frustrated when I think about it, and discontent when I don't. But still, I'll do it again. And maybe again. And perhaps again after that. I'm not sure that I'll ever be okay with it.

Maybe it's that tension that changes the world.

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