Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

UU guilt strikes again

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 6, 2007

Going through my Hotmail mail, I don’t bother reading social justice notices from the ACLU, Common Cause, or the folks trying to save people in Darfur, but I do read the occasional Friendster update. Does that make me shallow? I don’t think I’m shallow. But I am overwhelmed. I know the world needs saving, and I know the Good Fight must be fought, but when it’s 9:25 PM on a Tuesday and I am tired and my house needs cleaning and I’m just checking e-mail and I cannot deal with Darfur.

But it makes my heart ache.

Yet isn’t it unreasonable for me to think that I can do much about it? Should I quit my day job, run the risk of foreclosure, and go to a refugee camp to help those who have left Darfur? Should I devote all my free time to nagging our government to do something? After all, what can I do?

I can send a letter. I can go to and fill out the form that will send an e-mail to President Bush. That is certainly something I can do. That is certainly something just about anyone reading this blog can do.

Doing that one small thing – sending an e-mail to President Bush – may make a difference. You cannot create a mountain of e-mail and letters without sending an e-mail or a letter. But it still doesn’t alleviate the guilt I feel when I ignore pleas for action and aid. I still feel a pang of guilt when I recycle the umpteenth snail mail request from the NPR station I listen to, or the solicitation from Doctors Without Borders, or Habitat for Humanity. But what else would I do, when I’ve already given? Or I don’t have the money this month to make a donation? There is only so much one person can do.

I think it is my perfectionism playing a guilt trip on me. That, and the weight of the Unitarian Universalist tradition of social action bearing down on me. The feeling that I should be doing more. The feeling that I should be doing more, and shame on me for not doing more.

But we can’t all be rabble rousing activists. Someone has to keep roads clean, the trains running, the lights on. Someone has to tend to the tasks that keep the world running, right?

So, I need to remind myself of this quote by Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

I cannot do everything, so I should stop thinking I can do everything. But I can do my small bits – write a letter, make a donation. That I can do, and I will.


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