What can one person possibly do is a question often heard when individuals are presented with the hard realities of the world.
What can one person possibly do is a question often
heard when individuals are presented with the hard realities of the
For instance, what can only one do about U.S.
poverty, the epidemic of child abuse, the scandalous life too many
children are forced to live in this richest of all nations?
Look at the statistics – too many American children
are suffering, too many are living in poverty, too many are living
without hope. This especially is true in Louisiana.
But what can one person do?
And what should one person be expected to do?
After all, there are government programs to help
those in need. There are faith-based programs as well. Southern
Baptists have them – world hunger offerings to feed the starving and
ministries that focus on teaching the illiterate and training the
unemployable and sheltering the homeless.
There are all kinds of foundations and organizations and grants and programs and initiatives.
So, what should one person be expected to do – even if there were anything that one person could do?
Well, for one thing, each person can hope Michel
Quoist is wrong when he writes of the two loves in the world.
“We are made by love and for love,” the French abbe’
writes. “On earth, we learn to love. … There are but two loves, love
of ourselves and love of God and of others.
“To live is to choose between these two loves.”
As he continues, Quoist suggests that choosing
selfish love is to steal the love intended for others and to create
human suffering and misery in the process. “Love of self is a stolen
love,” he notes. “It was destined for others. They needed it to live,
to thrive, and I have diverted it.”
In the sufferings caused, Quoist includes the boy
who endures child abuse, the unemployed man seeking work, the desperate
father herding his family into a single, small room each night and the
mother “whose children are hungry while the remains of a party are
thrown into the garbage.”
In Quoist’s reasoning, if the love God intended for
the world somehow was unleashed by those entrusted with it, such
sufferings and miseries could be eradicated.
Surely, Quoist must not be right, one reasons.
High hopes indeed, another says.
Impossible dreams, a last one solemnly intones.
And there is truth in those sentiments. Indeed, the
problems confronting Louisiana and the United States – such as the
number of children living in poverty – are great, even overwhelming.
And as some are sure to say, even Jesus indicated the poor always would
But … it does not take much reading in the gospels
to catch the heart of the Christ. It is for the poor and the outcast
and the desperate and – most definitely yes – for the children, all too
often forgotten in that time and this.
Even while acknowledging the poor, indeed, always
may be present, Jesus never stopped reaching out to them, ministering,
simply caring and sharing and loving as he could.
And he left pretty strong indication that it will
not be the job of believers on some distant day to explain what could
not be done – but to describe what was done in his name, for his sake,
for the sake of others, however limited or seemingly insignificant or
small it may have been or appeared to be.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers of mine, you did for me,” Jesus reminded his followers of
their sometimes feeble efforts at care. In other words, even if it was
ministry to just one – Jesus was there.
But the opposite also is true, Jesus reminded those
gathered – “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you
did not do for me.”
So, what can one person do in the light of such
despairing and disturbing statistics as reported in the article above?
One can do whatever one can.
It may be forgoing material desires in order to
provide more funding for need programs. It may be volunteering at an
after-school tutoring program for kids – or starting one. It may be
spending time with the child down the street who lives with a single
parent. It may be joining a youth mentoring program, visiting the
juvenile detention center, picking up kids for Sunday School, working
part-time at the local school, taking a young parent under one’s wing.
In short, it can be anything love leads one to do.
No, one cannot change all – and even Quoist suggests
as much as he continues what was written as a prayer. For he has God
answer and acknowledge that humans alone cannot unleash enough love to
rescue the world.
Only God has – and can deliver – that kind of
boundless love, Quoist says. But in his final lines, he reminds each
one – that is just what God desires to do through his children.
Indeed, in Quoist’s prayer, the final words of God
echo that hope – “If you want, I give you my life. I give you my heart;
I give it to my (children). Love with my heart, and all together, you
will feed the world, and you will save it.”
What can one do?
Believe – and act like – Quoist has it exactly right.
(Written by LBM Associate Editor C. Lacy Thompson)