I was sick the month of January.
It’s February 1, and I’m still sick.
I tell my class that one day they will get to meet Healthy Kim, and I assure them that Healthy Kim is a delightful person. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I’ve been on death’s door the whole time. Rather, I seem to be on an alternating course of a semi-healthy congestion-and-cough stage, which inevitably transitions into a feeling-like-I’m-going-to-die phase. After a few days of the latter, I will resolve to Go. To. The. Doctor….but then I’ll start feeling better. Unfortunately, during my feeling-like-I’m-going-to-die phase, my house begins to look like I have, in fact, died, and that I’ve left it with no one to take care of it. Greg does his best to pick up the slack, but in between his full time job and taking care of the kids while he is home, there’s not a lot of time for deep cleaning. The result is that on days like today, following a feeling-like-I’m-going-to-die stage, my house looks like a bomb went off in it. The downside of the carnage is that I do not have the energy to whip it back into shape. The upside is that the chaos allows me to meditate on what it means to be a force for good in this world.
See, when I walk out of my bathroom, and see a piece of laundry on my bedroom floor, my instinct is to pick it up. When I do pick it up, however, only to see fifteen other pieces of laundry strewn across the floor, my instinct is to drop the piece of laundry back onto the floor and simply exit the room. My reasoning is, “I am way too tired to pick up all that laundry, so why should I waste the energy to pick up one piece? One less piece of laundry on the floor makes no difference in the big picture; the room still looks trashed.” And then I walk into the kitchen and have the same experience with the dishes, and I move into the playroom and repeat the reasoning in the midst of all the toys. Finally, I tend to sit down on the couch, defeated, and check my Facebook.
Thankfully, I’ve found a line of reasoning that works on my overwhelmed and exhausted mind in times when the chaos of life threatens to overtake me. Instead of making any kind of definite goals (actual levels of productivity being well beyond my capabilities in such compromised states), I simply tell myself to
“Be a force for good.”
In other words, don’t worry about the mess. Don’t worry about the chaos. Don’t think about the effort it would take to get this room cleaned. Simply do something that will help the situation, not hurt it. And so, as I pass through the kitchen, I will move one coffee cup from the table to the sink. Just one cup, and I won’t even load it in the dishwasher. And then I’ll tell myself, “Good job, Kim! You were a force for good!”
(Yes, I actually do this.)
And then when I go to rest a second on the couch and find that there’s no room on it, I will tell myself, “Rather than push everything into a big pile, hang up that one coat, which will clear you some room.” And I hang it up, and I congratulate myself again. It goes on like that for awhile: I do little, insignificant actions that don’t make the house look any better, but that make me “a force for good.” See, even though I don’t see the results, I know that I made a little difference in the dynamic of my house. Instead of causing chaos, I brought just a smidgen of order.
What inevitably happens is that my tiny actions start to change my mindset. Gradually, I will be a force for good no matter where I walk in the house. At one point, I may even decide to make a bed! Or unload the dishwasher! Or fold a load of laundry! The hardest part is to get the ball rolling. Once I start to move, however, I gradually become more and more of a consistent force for good. But when I first survey the carnage, it is almost impossible for me not to fall into despair.
I have the same reaction when I survey the chaos of the world. When I start to think of all the broken lives around me (not to mention those around the world)…and I begin to contemplate the amount of effort it would take to get involved in just one…and I begin to comprehend what a drop in the bucket all that effort would ultimately amount to….my temptation is just to say, “Forget it!” And walk away. Step over the piece of laundry, and exit the room.
I don’t think I’m alone in that temptation. I know that, for example, whenever I talk about trying to buy fair trade chocolate, the most typical reaction I encounter is of the overwhelmed soul who sees fair trade chocolate as the 15th piece of laundry on the floor and wonders what the point is in picking up that one. And just as it seems ridiculous that I cheer myself on when I move one coffee cup to the sink in the midst of a disastrous kitchen, it seems strange to people to choose one product to avoid, when there are so many other “bad” ones out there. To such people, I just want to say,
Be a force for good.
If fair trade chocolate doesn’t ring your bell, then find out what does. Or better yet, ask God where He wants you to start. The bottom line is that once you start being a force for good, however tiny, your actions will eventually transform your mindset. You begin to identify yourself as that positive force, and your new-found identity will start to run over into other aspects of your life.
In the end, the world may not be transformed…but your life most certainly will.
How are you a force for good?