I once heard a politician, Denny Heck from the House of Representatives, talk about his retirement after four terms in political office. He said,
“My soul is weary.”
I sighed, grabbing my notebook to scribble his words. For a moment, I felt discouragement, distress, and despair. His phrase didn’t just resonate with me. It vibrated through me like a tuning fork had been struck on my heart.
Many of us are soul-weary these days.
Awareness of current events comes at a cost
The news has always been a part of my life.
I want to be aware of what’s happening in the world. I want to understand the global issues that face us and not bury my head in the sand, ignoring everything except what happens in my own little mud puddle.
But world-watching exacts a heavy price.
Knowing about wars, prejudices, ethnic cleansings, political-powers-gone-berserk, mass shootings, robberies, poverty, discrimination, crime, climate change, destruction of the rain-forest, massive fires, mental illness, accidents, and tragedies costs you.
Knowledge of current events takes a toll on your psyche, your energy, and your outlook on the world.
Unless you consciously change your viewpoint.
How to overcome the weariness of the soul
Yesterday, my country dog wandered a mile away, across frozen fields and an expanse of woods to end up loitering along a stranger’s fence. Zoey, my lovable, adopted shelter dog who is always up for an adventure, had not obeyed the boundaries of our property and decided to track a deer or a rabbit or just take a walkabout far from home.
I was frantic. I imagined the worst. She could have gotten tackled by a coyote. She might have trekked up to the road, and not understanding cars, jumped into the path of a speeding vehicle. My stomach was churning. What if she was now lying dead or injured on the side of the road?
Nausea notwithstanding, I wandered the meadows and woods on our property, looking in the ravines, calling her name, buzzing her training collar to bring her home.
Then the phone rang. A woman from Lost and Found Pets identified herself. “Zoey’s just fine,” she said as my heart started celebrating. “A woman who lives not far from you has found her.” Just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from us, a kind soul had discovered my dog dawdling around her house and called the pet locator service. She even volunteered to put her on a lead and walk a mile down the country road to bring her back to us.
I was reunited with my sweet but disobedient dog because of the kindness of a stranger.
Her action reminded me of how many millions and millions of good deeds are done quietly every day by ordinary people who care about others.
A fact that shouldn't be forgotten.
If I paid more attention to the small acts of kindness in the daily world, I would never feel soul-weary.
It’s hard to stay mired in the muck of bad news when you start noticing good deeds.
Acts of kindness
The other day, I pulled into Walgreen's drug store. While my husband ran in, I watched a shabbily-dressed, older man sitting on the concrete walkway, back against the brick wall, head down. As I sat wondering if I should help him, a little elderly lady walked over and handed him a big bag of food from the MacDonald’s across the street.
She had not hesitated. She had just acted. She had done one small act of kindness that made a difference, and she had done it without asking to be praised, acknowledged, or noticed in any way.
How many millions of times throughout the world are things like that happening every day?
More times than we can count.
The amount of goodness surrounding us should keep us from being soul-weary. Kind acts outweigh evil ones. The "helpers" always outnumber the "hurters."
Consider the generosity of Americans:
- More than one-quarter of the American population volunteer to help other people. That’s 62.8 million people choosing to do something selfless with 7.9 billion hours of time every year.
- Individuals in America account for 70% of charitable giving. In fact, 286.7 billion dollars were given to charity in 2017.
- For the first time ever, charitable giving in America crossed the $4 billion dollar mark, donating 410.02 billion dollars in 2017.
- 1.5 million non-profit organizations exist in the United States today.
Think about it. Every time a tragedy happens, thousands and thousands of people step forward to help in some way, whether it be in donating their money, volunteering their services, or sending supplies. Strangers send cards and letters to those in need and do whatever they can to support the grieving in any way possible. From GoFundMe pages, to impromptu memorials of flowers, candles, and signs, to prayer vigils and cards, people rush in to help other people that they don't even know.
In the midst of tragedy or inconceivable violence, look at the people who run into the face of danger to protect others. Remember the heroes who save others at the risk of losing themselves. Concentrate on the “helpers” instead of the "hurters." Focus on the good.
Change your viewpoint
Millions of people in countries all over the globe come to each other’s aid. No count exists for the many smaller, less-public-less-courage-required acts of kindness that happen every day.
- People return lost wallets filled with money.
- They provide homeless people with meals, bake casseroles for their neighbors, or take boxes of grocery goods to food pantries.
- Every single day, caring people donate to toy drives, blood banks, and animal shelters.
- They give to fundraisers for people who have incurable illnesses with no insurance.
- They pay for the education of a deserving young person.
- They buy cars for people who want to work but don't have transportation.
Billions of times. Every night. Every day. Throughout the entire world.
Ordinary people enacting quiet acts of goodness without the need for recognition.
Don’t let your soul be weary.
A dark world looks much, much brighter if you focus on the dog-finders, the wallet-returners, and the many acts of kindness that are performed every day all around you.
In the midst of darkness, there are a million pinpricks of light.
Melissa Gouty is an optimistic soul who believes that the goodness in people outweighs the evil in the world, no matter how bleak it seems. She loves books, ideas, history, human nature, and her sometimes-misbehaving dog, Zoey.