I have heard from many of you lately that you are feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed when it comes to making choices about how to engage in activism and social justice work. The sense that there is so much to be done and so many different issues and groups and initiatives vying for our attention. I have also heard that some folks are simply stepping back from their activism altogether because it just feels like too much. I understand this impulse. The sheer number of requests for space, speakers, petitions, and programs has skyrocketed.
It’s overwhelming. Truly.
And yet, we know that our faith calls us to respond to the world around us, to continue to work for justice and equity in our community.
When we feel overwhelmed by the state of the world or the state of our everyday life, and then layer on top of that the continuous requests from organizations, it’s easy to say, “Forget this, I can’t possibly help enough to make a difference, I can’t possibly decide which one is most important, and furthermore, I don’t have time to add yet another event.” I’d be lying if I told you I’d never thought these things. You’re not the only one who is tired!
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to solve it all. You are only one person. You don’t have to go to every forum or march or meeting. You just have to decide what is most important to you and focus on that. I have a colleague whose practice it is to choose three issues, and three issues only. She decides where to put her energy, and keeps strong boundaries around her time and energy. I’ve not been very good at emulating this practice personally, but I commend it to you anyway. Think about it! If we all committed to one issue, or two issues, or three issues, there would be a whole congregation of people working to make the world a better place, and fewer people experiencing burnout.
Social justice in congregational life is different from our personal work. It is our work (the Earth & Social Justice Ministry) to make opportunities for engagement available to the whole congregation. That’s why we don’t pick just one issue. We work on many issues together. But we don’t expect everyone to work on everything! Just Change (the Open Space event we held in September) was a process that allowed us to decide as a group what the primary interests of the congregation are for now. Action Wednesday (ESJM’s evening program on the third Wednesday of the month) was created to help more people engage in social justice activities by concentrating meetings and programs at the same time.
And so I invite you, rather than letting the wide range of challenges overwhelm you, get you down and paralyze you, choose your 2 or 3 issues, and give them your all. We can make a difference together.