What Can I Do?


What can I do? I wrote these four words in my journal on a particularly challenging day in November 2009. It was my first year teaching high school and I felt helpless. The majority of students in my class either neglected to choose an elective so the school chose for them or had been kicked out of another class and entered my room mid-semester. I felt like I didn’t know how to relate to my students or how to make a difference in their lives – which the doe-eyed dreamer in me so yearned for. I wanted to make a difference. To bring a little more good into the world.

I cried and cried as I thought about these four words. What can I do?

Love them. That was the only answer I could think of. Love them. And so I did. ┬áNo turning back. They didn’t always make it easy, but I loved them. I decided that year that I wanted them to learn, but I didn’t care if they remembered a single thing from my class as long as they knew and could remember that I loved them. That somebody loved them and was on their side.

I don’t know if I made a difference, but they certainly made a difference to me.

As I lay in bed tonight, unable to fall asleep, tears fall on my pillow and I ask myself the question again. What can I do?

Same question, different circumstances.

What can I do? What can I do?

There’s been too much heartache, violence and hate and once again…I feel helpless.

What can I do?

I don’t have the answer. I don’t know for certain what will create real and lasting change for humanity, but I do think The Beatles were onto something when they said “All You Need Is Love.”

Love doesn’t make pain go away. In fact, sometimes love only makes the ache that pain causes to grow stronger. But it’s something I can do. It’s something I can do until I know what else I can do.

I can treat people with love. All people. Including myself.
I can mourn with others.
I can be a voice.
I can join other voices.
I can stand beside them and show my support for them.
I can be a safe place for people to open up.
I can verbalize and remind them about just how magical and precious they are simply because they live and breathe.
I can be ready to help and be a voice when an opportunity arises.

There’s a lot I can do. There’s a lot we can do. Love isn’t limiting.

I’m not the first one to write about “love” following actions of disaster, hate or terror – all of which humanity experiences far too often.

But, I guess writing this is my way of coping. My way of feeling marginally less helpless. Of trying to add a little more love, a little more good in the universe  during a time that feels too dark.

And maybe love isn’t the only answer. Maybe it can’t do everything. But it breeds a lot better results than hate of any kind ever will.