Doing what little I can

I don’t know how everyone around me is so calm. Everyone goes to work, walks their dogs, buys lunch from Pret, and through all of it I’m frightened. Last week, my dreams were all about evacuating, as if we were on the run. I’ve woken up wondering what we could take with us if we had to leave in a hurry. Logic tells me that there is nothing to fear, as life carries on for us as usual.

Still, my bones feel the urge to run. It could be that this trait is in my very DNA, passed down from generations of nomads to my more immediate ancestors, fleeing persecution. Maybe this trait has filtered its way down to me, distilled into a concentrated hypersensitivity that has me obsessing over current events. My browsing history is clogged with variations on ‘safest countries in the world’ as I try to consider options. It doesn’t help that I just read Some Girls, Some Hats And Hitler: A True StoryTrudi Kanter’s electric memoir, recalling her escape from Vienna to London in the late 1930s.

And yet, I understand that this obsession with flight seems absurd at the present time – and thank God, because our world is a fragile one. My mind flits between thoughts such as these to trying to amend everything over which I have any control, from our home’s decor to my hair colour. In all of this, mindfulness has taken a backseat.

So, I went back to my foundation and opened A%20Calendar of Catholic DevotionA Calendar of Catholic Devotion, which provides a bit of reflection on saintly lives every day. One of the saints whose story stood out to me was that of Margaret of Hungary. As a young princess, she was ‘gifted’ to a convent. After a short life choosing to work the lowliest jobs in the order, and barely sustaining herself with food, she died at the age of 28.

I have mixed feelings about this woman being canonised after such a life. Surely the saints are venerated because of the example that they provide to us, and she was a woman venerated for her obedience and extreme fasting. Today, one might wonder if she was trying to starve herself out of her own misery. Though her father tried to reclaim her in order to arrange a political marriage, she refused and instead received Consecration of the Virgins to prevent this from becoming a further issue.

My first thought was that self-starvation is still a method that young girls use to exact a measure of control over their own lives. But perhaps I am being too cynical. Perhaps the lesson here is one of self-restraint and an ability to recognise when humility is required. Thus, I would like to know how I can best overcome feelings of helplessness and learn when to be humble. It seems strange that feelings of helplessness and arrogance should go hand in hand, but I know that they do. People often deem endeavours unworthy because they believe that their individual effort is unremarkable. But each action creates a ripple in the waters around us, and here I am reminded of that famous Sydney Smith quote: ‘It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.’

Though it hardly seems like enough, I’ll take the time to donate to organisations assisting refugees, and try to spread kindness to those in my life. It feels pathetically small, but it is better than doing nothing. For now, I will do what little I can; when I have the resources to do more, I will be able to take larger actions.

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