“Donate Goods,” says the sign on the Salvation Army collection box. But it says more than that: six of those eleven letters are painted red, so you can read it as “Do Good”: yes, it helps to toss some material things in the box, but you should also look for opportunities to do the occasional kindness.
In other words, something like this:
I was also thinking of something I used to ardently believe, but have kind of … lost faith in recently. It could be summed up by the phrase “Every loving act adds to the balance of love in the world.” The idea, I used to have, was that even if I did small loving things, it somehow helped to counterbalance the greed or selfishness or whatever other bad things … not that it would wipe those things out, but somehow, it would act kind of like putting a penny on the scales … something small, but something that said “This isn’t the only thing that has weight.”
This was why, in the past, when I’d hear of some bad event in the world (e.g., a shooter attack), I’d grab some yarn and needles and start making a hat or mittens to donate somewhere.
Of course, you can’t counterbalance the wickedness of the world all by yourself; but you still put the penny on the scale, and trust that friends and neighbors have spare change of their own.
And sometime around 2015 or 2016, I don’t know. It’s like there were too many shootings, there was too much bad, it felt too much like the cruel people, the bullies, the people who “othered” other people were winning …and it began to feel like:
1. What good I can do is pointless in the face of that;
2. There’s nothing I can do that’s big enough or good enough to help anything.
And … a little part of me lost hope. It’s a bad feeling, the sense that nothing you can do will make a difference and even though you may know that it is right to be unselfish in various ways, you’re ultimately going to lose.
In some ways, you are going to lose: Physics 101, by way of the laws of thermodynamics, tells us that entropy ultimately wins out. But that’s a purely earthly measure; if there’s more to life than just the obvious stuff, an unsatisfactory outcome is not foreordained.
And yet, I kept going, kept pushing. Continued to try to be helpful and be a compassionate person, because that’s how I was raised, even if some days I felt that doing so was utterly useless in the world at large (because of how little I can actually do) or that I was a “chump” because people who were selfish were “winning” and I sometimes wound up being taken advantage of for my good nature.
They aren’t “winning.” They’re just trying to gain some temporary advantage, because that’s how they were raised; karma may deal with them, or may not, but it’s not your responsibility to monitor the results.
So you keep going, keep pushing. And ultimately, knowing you’ve done the right thing is more rewarding than you might think; it may seem like just a penny on the scale, but many pennies make dollars, while the dross on the other side will never add up to anything.