What to do when you don’t know what to do

I’m feeling a lot of emotions these days. Some of them generated from the life in front of me–kids who won’t listen, worries about the future, fear about the past–and some from situations that are beyond my control and beyond my geography. I went to Africa this summer. It’s been a month since we came home. And the feelings I’m feeling now are tied to the things I saw there and then.

When I read about the refugee crisis affecting Syria and see the pictures of people longing for a home without violence and fear, I want to turn away. I want to get on with my life. Yet I also want to step in and do something. But even as I sit and read the article, there are people in my own home who are fighting over a toy or asking for food. There are needs out there and there are needs in here and I don’t know how to reconcile the two. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m trying to compartmentalize them. I want the time to take care of my family to be separate from the time I need to care about world issues. Maybe what I need is not reconciliation but some kind of intersection. A way to incorporate my cares for the world with the cares of my family.

Fifteen of us went to Africa and almost all of us, I think, want to fix something about what we saw and experienced. We want to do something. We want to change something. We were changed and that’s significant, but there are so many things to do. How do we choose?

The same day I read about Syria, I read this post, too, and it was an encouraging push to do something, whether it’s for Africa or Syria or my neighborhood. Even if it looks like the wrong thing to others, I can still do something. It’s the first part of that statement that scares me because I don’t like to be wrong. But would I rather be wrong and do something or do nothing because I’m afraid of being wrong?

I’m ready to do something.

I’ve written before that my writing is one way of doing something, and I’m still going to do that. But I want to take it another step forward.

In Kenya, we met people whose lives were disrupted by violence, whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed in a bid for power. They were refugees in their own country.

mud home

Their struggle is real. I looked at their faces and into their eyes. I walked into their dark one-room houses. For one part of one day, I entered the life of someone on the other side of the world, and though I offered prayer and encouragement, the words practically stuck in my throat because they sounded so hollow. Who was I to stand in that woman’s house and pray for provision? What she needed for a more secure house is what I pay monthly in rent. Let that sink in for a minute.

I know I can’t save the world. I’m not going to try. That sounds big and overwhelming.

But I can look at my life and consider what I have and what I can give. And I can do the next right thing.

In Kenya we also met a man who heard about the need in the valley, who knew that there were people living in tents in an unfamiliar place. He went there to see what he could do. They asked him to preach, and even though he wasn’t a preacher, he started preaching on Sundays for them. They met under an acacia tree. They became known as the tree church.

That was years ago. We worshipped with the people of the tree church in a building in the refugee camp when we were in Kenya. Because this man wanted to do something and then actually did it, there is a church building where people come for miles to give thanks to God for their very lives. Because this man went where he felt led, the children can count on one good meal every week. And he dreams of more things he can do, with God’s help, for the people.

So, I will take my one step forward. And I will let God take it from there.

It is a small step. Tiny really. But it’s something.

And I’d rather do something than nothing.

Today, I sent off a volunteer application to work with a local organization that helps resettle refugees in our area. This is not even a humble brag because it feels like nothing, but it’s something I was thinking about before Kenya and it has only grown stronger in my heart and mind.

That’s my “yes” today. Yours might look different.

And click here for an excellent resource if you want to do something to help Syrian refugees but don’t know what to do.


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