Monday, February 27, 2006

the task at hand

Ever suffer from paralysis because of the enormity of a task at hand? This company has to be turned around. My family is in crisis. The nation is at risk. My church is in decline. These are familiar themes. And the sad truth is that not every sinking ship can be floated. Some promising starts will end as dismal failures.

Then there are the personal challenges you encounter. There always seems to be a worthy charity that needs money to help children. You hear the call for volunteers at your child's school or from your church. Someone you know is struggling with drug addiction or has lost her job. There are so many needs.

You might begin with the awareness that you can't do everything that needs to be done. You can't right all the wrongs. You can't help everybody who is in trouble. It is arrogant to think you can; it is self-destructive to try. Even Jesus didn't try to shoulder so heavy a responsibility. And occasionally he withdrew from the press of demands being made on him. He could help many, but not all.

So what are you and I supposed to do in the face of crippling poverty and drug or alcohol addiction? How are we supposed to respond to hurricanes, unemployment, and hungry children? How can you be God's instrument of hope in a world that is filled with troubles and heartache?

Dr. Fumio Shigeto was waiting for a streetcar about a mile from the center of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. There was a blinding fireball when an American bomber dropped an atomic bomb that had the destructive equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT. A five-square-mile area of one of the chief supply depots of the Japanese Army was devastated, and 60% of its buildings destroyed.

Sheltered by the corner of a concrete building at his distance from the blast, Dr. Shigeto survived. He began hearing the screams of victims almost immediately. Not knowing what had happened, he stood bewildered and overwhelmed at the carnage. He was only one doctor wondering how he could respond to a city filled with thousands of desperately wounded patients. He knelt down, opened his black bag, and treated the person lying at his feet.

Dr. Shigeto's experience is our own. Having survived alcoholism or divorce, toxic church life or childhood abuse, what is your calling? Having put your life together after cancer, job loss, or a child's death, where should you focus your attention? Help someone near you. Reach to somebody whose grief you know.

Without making that person dependent on you, help him or her with what you have learned. You can't address every need. But you can do something.

Reprinted from Rubel Shelley's FAX of Life.