I will be the first to admit that when approaching a large problem, I strive to see mountains move. As soon as I learn about an injustice, I strap on the mentality that, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.” I get fired up by the quote, “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can make a change in the world are the ones that do.” I struggle with defeating the savior complex. I can get easily discouraged by small or unnoticeable improvements. After significant self-wrestling and reflection, I realized how unhealthy this thought process is. I have recently been challenged to rework my outlook by considering the question, “How do we shrink how we perceive making an impact on the world?”
My very first thought in response to this question was a flashback to a favorite childhood activity of making Shrinky Dinks®. For those who are unaware, Shrinky Dinks® are a craft in which you draw, trace or copy any image onto a Shrinky Dinks sheet, bake that sheet in the oven, and watch the transformation of the paper into a shrunken, hardened piece of plastic. This piece of plastic is nine times thicker than the original paper. Shrinky Dinks can be turned into ornaments, jewelry, ID tags, or keepsakes.
While I dismissed this childish memory originally, I realized it could assist me in answering this question. To begin shrinking how we perceive making an impact in the world, we need to dream big, draw new ideas, revise existing ones, and create an ideal plan. Then we must put this dream under the heat of reality and assess our tools and resources in this situation. The product is still an image of the original dream and although it is much smaller and some areas may look slightly different, the result is more solid.
An example of this (possibly slightly far fetched) analogy can be seen in New York City Urban Project’s (NYCUP) programs Feed 500 and Feed A Few. My exposure to these programs was the first time my mentality shifted to see the truth that small impacts are the catalysts for greater change. Jonathan Walton, the director of NYCUP, stated, “You don’t need an event to love your neighbor.”
“The vision of Feed 500 and Feed-a-Few is to develop a generation of leaders who are able meet the most vulnerable on our streets with food and resources sustained by the love and compassion of Christ.” Please watch this video which details the heart and process behind Feed 500. This program addresses the five types of poverty which many people who are homeless face. These are material poverty, poverty of being, poverty of community, poverty of stewardship and spiritual poverty. This program is rooted in seeing those who are homeless as people first and as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Because of this there is a strong emphasis on building relationships with those on the street who we encounter. According to David Ausburger , “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they’re almost indistinguishable.” Feed 500 seeks nourish the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our marginalized brothers and sisters.
It is so easy to become discouraged and even debilitated after hearing that over 500,000 Americans are currently homeless and to know the reality that so many more in our country and across the world are suffering. However, it is just as easy to become extraordinarily encouraged and hopeful to witness small efforts successfully combating great injustices as we can see in this one example above. One of my favorite short poems sums up this movement towards shrinking how we perceive making an impact in the world. Edward Everett Hale writes, “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything but I can do something. The something I can do, I ought to do and by the grace of God I will do.”