Whether you’re a teacher, social worker, nurse, coach, or just a good neighbor, you know and feel–most days, all the time—that the world needs saving.
Just know that you can’t save them all.
The shut-in down the block who puts on a friendly front, the kids on the street whose innocence is limited, the ne’er-do-wells who only come out at night–they bring to mind an anxiety that if you don’t help them, no one will.
And the problems double every time a new generation is born, and that’s not even counting the 71% of the world’s population who live on less than $10 a day (and considering that most of the world might not reach middle class or First-World status in my lifetime).
But you’re only one teacher, coach, and neighbor. So you have to do something.
Chances are, you’re helping more than you know
The fact that you care about your neighbor’s health and well being says a lot about you. Whether it’s the fear that a local teenager has become homeless, a parent is addicted to pills or in need of drug testing, or that there aren’t enough local jobs for small businesses and government to support, you’ve been “called” to a trade that focuses on serving people where they’re at. You teach or coach the kids who show up. You’re sharing a real meal with someone who was just planning on pasta and butter for the kids–again. Or you’re out there volunteering, even though the same crowd will be back next week, give or take a family of five.
Remember that everyone can be a hero–and you’re not going to save the world
“You are the hero we’ve been waiting for,” as the saying goes. So is the next guy, right? At some point you have to realize that even the worst teacher or parent who makes mistakes but seeks to improve–is doing a hell of a better job than no education program or therapy at all (and there are plenty of awful parents and teachers out there).
You’re just one part of one moment in time, and that should be enough, even when it isn’t.
You’re not failing, even though you feel like you’re failing
Most of history has been about one side oppressing another (in some form), and civil leaders stepping up to protect slaves, minorities, exploited workers, the downtrodden, property owners, and the rest of a marginalized tribe or society, most of them who hold no real power. That’s about it. There is always a rebel force, an empire-like conglomerate, and the workers in-between. There is always the bottom 80% of populations splitting what the top 1%, 5%, 10%, and 20% don’t own (which seems to always be less than half). And there have been countless heroes and local saviors doing due diligence long before you had your first inclination to break up a fight, help out in town, or speak out against some sort of unfair treatment of a people.
So take your place and do the most good for the one person you can help. It’s all you can do–today, at least.
Take a break, kid
Self-care is highly important for those who are constantly caring for others. Someone needs to take care of you the same way you’re hoping to take care of all the problems in all the areas of the world at large. While you’re teaching meditation to teenagers or offering a free class to adults who are continuing their education, remember that you also need that meditation or time to improve your learning. So take that break, and take it all in. You have time to help those in need, but you’re not going to do it all today. Even therapists need therapists, right? Someone is always out there listening, and it doesn’t always have to be you.
So whether you’re working overtime to teach “just one more student” or getting a degree to go on to raise up a community, start by working with one–just one class, student, client, or friend, And watch the hard work and magic take root.