When we feel a problem is too big to solve by ourselves, many of us tend to draw back into our shells and resign ourselves to doing nothing. Here’s what Gandhi offered to a friend who came to him with a similar concern:
One of the residents of Gandhi’s Wardha ashram, Bhansali came to him to ask him an important question. According to other ashramites, Bhansali was not yet using his time to be of service to others. Most of the time, in fact, he moped, with a refrain that he was powerless to help anyone. As Gandhi was practicing silence at the time to build his internal strength, his responses were written down. He started off:
“Don’t you like doing your little bit to lessen the surrounding misery?” Bhansali replied that he still felt powerless, even if he wanted to lessen the misery. So Gandhiji went on, “When a thorn pierces your foot, you pull it out, don’t you?” “Yes.” “When you feel hungry, you eat.” “I do.” “Then if you find a thorn piercing someone else’s foot, would you not help him to pull it out? If you find someone suffering from the pangs of hunger, would you not feed him?” “I would if I could.” And so Gandhi went further, “If there was someone going through agonies and there was none to tend him, would you not sit down to do so?” “I would.”
Gandhi wanted him to see the spirit of service that lay dormant in him, beneath the veneer of helplessness. There was always something that he could do to serve, and he need not feel it was not making a difference. “This one act of service,” he added in conclusion, “ would mean service of all humanity.”
If you are feeling helpless to enact a big shift in the world today (and which of us does not, at times), help just one person.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org