Be a Force for Good

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?

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Glenda on February 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    A timely post for me. It seems like lately I have been having that “What’s the use of trying” mindset.

    Reply

  2. “Or better yet, ask God where He wants you to start.” My word but that’s a good line, Kim. It’s amazing how much transformation goes on when we start by asking God what we should do next.

    Tim

    Reply

  3. I have done the same thing but without putting the same words to it. For the past few days I have had a list of various things to do including several “urgent” things, a lot of “important” things and a few “it would be nice if I got around to them eventually” things. Today most of the urgent things were already done, so I had to pick from the list of “important” things. Generally, this situation tends to cause me a lot of stress. The need to do the urgent things is obvious, but when presented with a list of equally important things that I can’t all do in one day, I have a terrible time deciding what to do. My inclination is to ignore the list entirely and go do something totally unrelated. However, what I TRY to get myself to do is just to PICK something and DO it. Today I did that and it worked. I didn’t completely finish the thing, but I know that I spent my time doing what I was supposed to be doing. If I hadn’t just picked something, I wouldn’t even have gotten it partially done.

    Applying this principal to helping people in the world, to me it’s the starfish story all over again (about the kid who is throwing starfish back into the ocean when the man tells him not to bother because he can’t save them all, but the kid says, “No, but I can save this one.”)

    BTW, I hope you feel better.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Ivy on February 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I really needed this little bit of motivation today, Kim (I’m a bit behind on my blog reading)! Something I’ve been struggling with is sharing my opinions about things like child slavery, caring for widows and orphans, etc. I get so afraid of confrontation or offending someone which is so backwards, because child slavery IS offensive in a whole different manner. I often don’t know if I should speak up, or live by example, or what. I want to stand for something, and a lot of times I feel like a pushover. I’m interested in how you talk to people about things like fair trade things? I don’t want to push something on someone, but I do want to be able to give a reason for my purchases if someone asks. I never can figure out the balance between sharing because I think it’s important, and being that annoying person that people avoid because who-knows-what social cause I’m going to bring up next.
    This comment has ended up being kind of off-subject…sorry about that. 🙂
    I hope you are feeling better!
    I often feel like buying one bag of fair trade coffee or chocolate does not matter, but this post has encouraged me that it is not.

    Reply

    • Ivy, in response to whether or not to share your opinions, I was just thinking the other day how much my attention has shifted and how open my eyes have become (in comparison) to different social issues, and that wouldn’t have happened if someone hadn’t stepped out there to share their opinion. Although it is true that people (including me) tend not to pay much attention to the apparent nut cases, I realize that there are things that are serious issues in the world that need to be made more public. Unfortunately, we do tend to write off the stuff that is either really extreme or seems beyond doing anything about, but I think messages do eventually sink in once they have been pounded in enough. As a child, I remember my parents making negative comments about movies or TV shows that were obvious propaganda for things like environmentalism, the dangers of big corporations, etc. But now that I look back on these things, I think that maybe there was nothing wrong with those shows. Maybe there was a reason why they thought the issues were important enough to put in the minds of children. Anyway, I totally get what you are saying about not coming off like a freak, but I would encourage you to give your opinions anyway. (I know you were asking Kim, but I felt like I should jump in there.) 🙂

      Reply

    • I understand your conundrum, Ivy. In my brief experience, I have found that an overdose of passion usually overwhelms people and ultimately turns them off. And I know that from my own experience, when people are super-passionate about issues that aren’t even on my radar (avoiding certain kinds of food for heath reasons, for example), I tend to mentally push back against their passion because I’m just not ready for it. So I try to walk the line between sharing my beliefs and overwhelming people. For me, that means that I mainly confine such discussions to my blog, which people CHOOSE to read. I only bring it up in person if I think the other person would be genuinely interested in hearing and implementing it. I don’t know if that’s the right way to go about it, or if I should be more outspoken. For example, I know my parents would think the whole thing is dumb, and I also know that they have read my blog and not mentioned it. So when my mom comes in town with Valentine hearts full of Kit Kats and Reese’s for the kids, I don’t say anything. I really don’t think there would be any point, and that it would only lead to a frustrating argument. So I just keep NOT buying those things, but I don’t forbid my kids to take chocolate from others, like my mom. I know that she is serving God the best way she knows (and that she even sees her care of her grandchildren as service to God), so I just leave her to her own relationship with God. I’ve shared what I think via my blog, and she can decide what she wants to do with that information. I think that the best thing I can do is to raise awareness gently and to try to live it out myself the best I can. I do think the tide is slowly starting to turn, and I’m glad to be even a small part of that movement.

      Reply

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