I have been thinking a lot lately about responsibility. About who and what we are each responsible for in our lives. There are many articles and studies published today that decree a life of service is the key to a happiness. Giving to and helping others--and focusing your life’s purpose on this goal--is the surest way to achieve a sense of personal fulfillment while benefiting others. But how do we choose a cause? How do we know how to be in service?
The past few years, and maybe even more so, the past few weeks, when I open my eyes and ears to the world-at-large, to the heart-breaking recent events of mass violence in the public sphere, I wonder hopelessly, what can I do? How can I be in service? We must all, in some way, be responsible for fixing this problem, but how?
A yoga studio. A country bar. A Pittsburgh synagogue. I want someone to provide the clear instructions on how to stop this.
This weekend, I visited New York City and I walked through the crowds of the Veterans’ Day Parade and I danced in a dark crowded concert hall and sipped wine in a bar and stood amongst crowds of strangers and each time I asked myself--could this be it? Is this the moment of calm before that one person pulls out a gun and starts firing? I know this is morbid, but what makes the thought worse is to realize it is a common thought for many people. It is a common thought for children walking into a new school day.
I may not be able to head out on a solo mission to personally collect all the guns in our country that could be used for violence against humans, but I do have a responsibility to my writing. To my words. So I will start by writing about it.
I’ve learned through life and writing, that you can’t force “help” onto someone, despite your best intentions. I have come to learn that the best way we can help others is to show up authentically as ourselves. I have found this to be particularly true in writing.
If you write something with the intention to help other people, there’s a very good chance that your writing will not come across as authentic. It will be pushy. You need to write what's calling to you, what’s whispering lines of dialogue into your ear. That’s the story/essay/novel you need to get down. Or the painting you need to start. Or the foundation you need to launch.
We are responsible for showing up to our gifts.
For sharing our talents. For exercising them. For putting them to use. Because, I believe, this is where we can really make the most difference and counter the overwhelming negative national news coverage. Where we can create the biggest change--by dropping the seeds of ourselves in between the cracks of life and seeing what grows. That’s where the garden starts. That’s how you can create the food that can feed yourself and others. That's how you can be in service.
So I will start by writing. And listening. And paying attention to the ways in which I can be of service--both to large, overwhelming national causes and to the individuals we love in our small, private lives.