Tears Are Not Enough

by Susan Pogorzelski on April 4, 2011 · 19 comments

We can bridge the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t ya know that tears are not enough
- Bryan Adams, “Tears Are Not Enough”

 

Let me break it down for a minute
If there’s enough room here for you and me
There’s plenty of room for some humanity

Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Together we can all be strong
- All-Star Tribute, “What’s Going On” -

This past Friday, I had a Twitter exchange with a fellow blogging friend regarding this website’s new feature of highlighting a charity and the cause for which it stands. Its intent is to build awareness and is less about promoting the charity itself but more to facilitate an understanding and a knowledge where perhaps both were lacking. It’s my personal belief that awareness is the first step towards activism, the first step towards creating a change, because without those facts and personal experiences, without that knowledge, you have willful ignorance. And how can things change for the better if people don’t know enough to make that change, if they remain in their comfort zone of the same?

My intent was to build awareness via the only gift I have — through words, through the story, through connecting the cause to life.

Now I wonder how it could ever be enough.

I respect and admire the ever-love out of Akhila, a woman who’s heart is as caring as they come, with a profound desire to see positive change manifest in this world. She is incredibly smart and sympathetic, and her purpose spills forth in everything she does, particularly on her blog about social justice: Justice For All.

So, as someone I admire when it comes to philanthropy, when she mentioned the website Good Intentions (dot) org and respectfully inferred that even the best intentions have their fallback, I was a little more than crestfallen…

To realize that good intentions are never enough.

To realize that enough is never enough.

To realize that any ripple I create will never be the wave of change I wish to see.

The exchange has haunted me since, making me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more, wondering how I could do more…

…wondering if the small steps matter at all.

There’s so much in this world that touches my heart, so much that conversely disgusts me. There’s so much in this world that I wish I could change, so much that I know I can’t do on my own: I wish the wars would end in the Middle East; I wish the bloodshed would end at home. I wish all animals had a place to call home; I wish the homeless had a home to turn to. I wish children kept their innocence, I wish women had a voice; I wish education was a right and not a privilege; I wish equality meant more than its definition.

I wish…I wish.

The list could go on and on and on and I don’t know where it would stop.

I wish for these things. As a humanitarian at the core, no, wait, as a human being, I believe in these things. I long to see peace; I long to see an end to suffering. The cruelty in this world, cruelty at the hands of another human being, one of our own — our brother, our sister, our mother, our father, our children — is so overwhelming. Day after day we read of the horrors  — so much tragedy and trauma inflicted by our own hands that it feels like we can suffocate from it all, drown in it all.

Day in and day out we’re so bombarded with the negative that we forget about the good…

The good that rests in these charities, in people like Akhila who have their causes and ceaselessly fight for them.

And maybe it even rests in people with good intentions. People who know they can’t change the whole world, but who begin by changing their own corner of it. People who understand that there are problems in every nation, but also tragedies that hit closer to home, becoming personal.

People like Sam, who walks for Alzheimer’s Awareness in memory of her grandmother, so that she can honor a loved one whose own memory was stolen by a disease for which there is not yet a cure…or understanding. A disease that robs loved ones of their own loved ones, of everything that makes up their life, so that they become a shell of who they once were, unaware of what is happening while those who hold their hand, those they can’t remember, are all too aware.

People like Ken, who has devoted his social media and marketing business to working primarily with non-profits and small businesses, whose outreach in the local community has helped those all over the world through the promotion and organization of fundraising events and awareness via the “Others First” series on his own blog.

Or people like Brenda, who organizes the annual Keepin’ It Kevin: Team Sarcoma fundraiser in honor of her late husband, who talks about grief and widowhood and is a constant inspiration to others to not let their own grief and loss overcome them. When grief and loss is so personal, when loss is a tragedy in its own right…

There are thousands of causes that touch our hearts for one reason or another; thousands of changes we wish to see in the world and thousands of wishes we could make to see them come true.

Thousands of curses to scream when anger and disgust at these realities make our blood boil; thousands of tears to shed when we cry for an end to the cruelty and  pain, cry for those who could never shed a tear themselves…

When we cry for peace — for world peace, for individual peace.

How do we choose just one cause? How do we discount all others? How do we survive, for ourselves, when we’re fighting for so many?

Are any of these causes less worthwhile? Is one greater than another; are we somehow less of a human being for choosing one cause to fight for — one cause that becomes so personal that it moves us to activism in its wake — over the other? Do we fight against the problems of the world and ignore those that reside in our own homes, sometimes in our very selves?

I don’t believe our heart aches any less for a homeless dog or a homeless person; I can’t believe that our heart bleeds any more over news of genocide in Africa or the murders in a hometown. I just can’t justify the belief that it’s an either/or equation.

It just is.

It all has to change, and why can’t we be the change for it.

For all of it.

One person can’t fix the world. Not on their own, no matter who they are, not without breaking or drowning themselves in the process.

Maybe that’s why we all have our own causes, the ones that touch our hearts, the ones we shed our tears over, the ones that become so personal that we can’t believe others don’t feel the same way, the ones that make us want to build that awareness so that others can understand not only why it touches you so, but to encourage their participation, their own efforts for change.

Maybe that’s why I’ve started this feature. I learned a long time ago that I can’t be the activist — the person — I wish I could be…not yet. And I can’t tell you how much that follows me every day.

And I  may not be able to contribute to every cause I wish to in the way I long to…

But that doesn’t mean you’re not doing your part…the parts that add up to a whole.

Maybe it all counts, maybe it all matters.

Maybe it’s that first ripple that creates the wave.

Maybe it’s the many small steps that add up to the biggest footprint.

Maybe having good intentions really isn’t good enough…

…maybe enough is never enough.

But maybe it’s a start.

And maybe that start is the start of something.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Brianne April 4, 2011

It just takes one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC-iYKKe_pM

EVERY action we take matters. <3

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Susan Pogorzelski April 4, 2011

Brianne, can you PLEASE stop making me cry?!

If there was ever a doubt that this was my cause — or, at least, one of them, one that touches my heart to its core, one that I will spend a lifetime fighting for and dreaming of opening up my own sanctuary, that video would alleviate it. I think, maybe it counts that I rescued Riley; maybe it counts that he rescued me.

It all has to count. It has to.

<3

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Brianne April 4, 2011

LOL I’m sorry!! Wasn’t it wonderful, though?

I am Queen of the Underdogs – both literally and figuratively. Animals (dogs specifically) are my common thread, always in my heart. But anyone in need of help, anyone with a broken heart or a broken soul, calls to me and I have to answer.

We have good hearts, you and I. That definitely counts. <3

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

<3

The better I know you, the more I adore you. True story! :)

Thanks, Brianne.

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zak April 5, 2011

I don’t know why anyone would choose to dissuade anyone else from taking their own first steps on change. Participating in social change is hard. Issues are massive, interrelated and daunting. People get intimidated by the size and scope and think, I can’t help end childhood hunger or discrimination.

But you don’t have to save the world. You make a ripple by impacting one person. You raise awareness; you change a mind; you spark action in a person you may never meet. Collectively these acts add to a lot of change. (And from a communications perspective, convincing someone of their ability to help one child is more likely to cause action that trying to convince someone they can help save 10,000 starving orphans)

There was just an article in the NYTimes about nonprofits closing their doors because they ACCOMPLISHED their mission http://ht.ly/4s7Af. How sweet is that notion. They succeeded in creating sustainable change on an issue that mattered to the founders and have made themselves irrelevant.

Raise awareness with your charity spotlight. You don’t know who will see it and what kind of shift it could cause in someone. And maybe a reader won’t act. But maybe that’s one more article they’ve read that gets him or her that much closer to the tipping point and the day that he/she will.

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Andrea: This was what I had always believed, but, as you can tell, I had my doubts. When is enough enough? Will it ever be enough? But by the end, I had worked through it and realized, at least in my own belief, that it all matters — all of it.

It matters if you hold a door for someone, it matters if you adopt just one dog, it matters if you donate $1, $5, $10,000 to a charity. It matters.

Sometimes, yes, good intentions aren’t enough — sometimes we need people who need to do more, those people who can be on the frontlines. But that’s not for everyone…and that doesn’t make you something less, doesn’t mean you don’t care, doesn’t make you less human.

It just means you have to do what *you* can do. And maybe even the tiniest ripple is all there is, but a thousand tiny ripples make a difference.

Thank you for these words, Andrea — and for that article! I’d read this comment when you posted it and just felt even more conviction for what I really do believe — so thank you for that, too. If I could tell you how much it means, I would, but somehow I don’t think I’ll ever have the words.

xoxo

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greymous April 5, 2011

Susan,
Through your writings over the year you have done a huge service to many (probably most of whom you don’t even know read your words) in promoting understanding, healing, inner & outer turmoil conflict and resolution and clear thinking. Just by being who you are and doing what you do you are helping others.

Each of us chooses what we can do and how we go about doing it. There are way too many good causes that need help and all any of us can do it to pick one or two (or a few) that we feel a connection to and go from there. I give little gifts here and there to charities that my friends are involved with by sponsoring them on their bike rides or walkathons but only have a couple that I support on a regular basis which are animal based (ASPCA, shelters etc.) and children’s hospitals/cures as my son has pancreatitis (which is not as bad as many of the things that children suffer from but when it flares up is plenty bad enough for us).

We do what we can do for that which we feel is close to us. We cannot do more than that. When we try to overreach we often end up overwhelmed and are not helpful to anyone or anything.

You’re doing a wonderful thing each time you put pen to paper (real or virtually) so keep faith in your work and don’t let that little negative monster take hold.

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Ken: As I just said to Andrea above, I wish I could tell you how much this — you, your words — mean to me, but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to explain the full scope of that.

I don’t feel like I’m doing enough — I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m doing enough and maybe that’s why I’ll always be fighting, always be trying, always be looking for other ways. I can’t open up the sactuary I want to just yet; I can’t donate all of my money to charity. But I know what I can do now, and maybe that’s all I can do.

“We do what we can do for that which we feel is close to us. We cannot do more than that. When we try to overreach we often end up overwhelmed and are not helpful to anyone or anything. You’re doing a wonderful thing each time you put pen to paper (real or virtually) so keep faith in your work and don’t let that little negative monster take hold.”

I’m taking these words to heart, Ken. Thank you. THANK YOU. A million times over, thanks.

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Sam April 5, 2011

I agree that awareness is a major catalyst for change. Ignorance breads hatred and ambivalence, and we definitely don’t need more of either of those in this world. There’s a quote from the time of the Holocaust that I’ve used on my blog before: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I truly believe that one person can make a difference, and one little hello bar that raises awareness can make a difference too. You see, when you put together the efforts of all of the one people or smalls groups, you have a movement. The ripples definitely create the waves.

We all find our own ways to give back and help the world. Thank you so much for mentioning one of mine. For me, it’s about honoring the memory of my grandmother, and raising money for research so they can find a cure. There was nothing I could do while I watched her memory fade away. Fundraising and walking makes me feel less helpless, even if I am only one person.

By the way, you are an activist, in your own way. You don’t have to make a lot of noise or stand on a podium. You can write posts like this one, and raise money for the ASPCA. So, don’t sell yourself short!

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Sam: I love that quote. And, dare I say it, I believe in that quote. And the more I thought about the people in my life who are making their own difference, the more I thought that had to matter…You and Brenda and Ken…You’re all inspirations, and there are still so many more.

What I think I’m learning is that you don’t *have* to devote your life to a thousand causes, even though you may feel like you want to. Maybe all it takes is devoting a piece of your heart to just one. Maybe it grows from there.

Thanks for this, Sam. Thanks for being such a huge inspiration yourself for something that has affected both of us personally. I love that you turn that difficult experience into something positive, and I hope that so many more learn from your lead.

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Andi April 5, 2011

Man, this speaks to what I’m considering a lot . . . how do we as people first make change? And what is the right change to make?

How do we as writers make change?

Such a good challenge . . . and one I needed to hear . . .

“Be the change,” cliche but so true. . .

Keep this up, Susan.

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Andi — that’s exactly it. What can we as writers do? What can we as humans do while still being human and living the life we wish to lead? I’ve always believed that awareness was the first step, but I never knew what to do with that. Until now. Until I realized that we have this platform and we have these gifts and how can it be so bad to be able to use both to bring about that awareness — can’t that awareness breed more change?

Thanks for commenting, Andi!

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Raven April 5, 2011

When I worked for Art Works Projects, people would constantly question us about the “usefulness” of our projects. How were we changing anything? How were we making an impact? How is this helping anyone? So on and so forth.

If eliminating world hunger was just about food – everyone who is starving would be fed. If genocide was just about getting people to stop shooting one another – then well, you get my drift.

When I think about it, people’s views about impact can be extremely narrow in scope. There are different kinds of activists and catalyst for change – it’s not all about the ground workers and it’s not all about the lobbyists and people on Capital Hill.

So, I love your perspective, I’m glad you are staying positive. Change comes in many scopes. It’s about being sincere. So, as long as you are sincere – I don’t think you can go wrong.

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Thanks, Raven — thanks for your comment and thanks for being my sounding board and helping me to find strength in my convictions. That’s what bothers me so much sometimes…people questioning your actions and your intentions, as if somehow you’re doing less and so it means less.

If it helps just one person, then that’s one person that’s been helped. And how can you discount that? I’m not cut out to be a ground-worker or a lobbyist — I have my limitations and I know it. But I can play my part — maybe we all can, maybe that’s what makes the difference.

Thanks so much Raven, for everything.

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Elisa April 7, 2011

I am troubled by this post, and have held off commenting because of that troubling. I am troubled that you feel like your caring isn’t important, doesn’t matter, and doesn’t make the world a better place. Susan, you have one of the most pure and loving hearts I know, and I can’t help but feel like your warmth should be a welcome addition to ANY cause.

The world is FILLED with people who are ridiculously apathetic. Unaware that there is even fighting in Northern Africa and the Middle East right now, uneducated about the political arguments in the US about restrictions and regulations, desensitized to the death and suffering in Japan over the past month because the media bombards us with images and grandiose statements.

I understand why activists get frustrated. Hell, I took on a non-profit publicity client because I figured getting newspapers to want to talk about this multi-city event to raise money for cancer would be newsworthy. Not a peep. But I think the frustration is horrifically misplaced when we get angry with people for “only caring” and saying it isn’t enough.

There is SO MUCH BADNESS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. And so many people who could (pardon me) give a shit…why not celebrate those that care. Encourage them to continue in that instead of telling them why they are wrong and how what they’re doing isn’t even good enough. Maybe if we did that, then more people would be inclined to care.

Cause as I see it, getting angry with people for caring only encourages them not to. And then we end up with even more apathetic observers and even more frustrated activists.

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Susan Pogorzelski April 7, 2011

Elisa: I can’t say I blame you, I was troubled by the post, too as I was writing it, as I was feeling it — more so by the doubt and the questioning of my own convictions. By the end, I think I figured out that it was all complete crap, that everything/anything you do matters, because of those good intentions, not despite them. Those good intentions mean you care…and you’re doing something about it. And you’re right — there are far too many people who don’t care, who don’t understand, so how can we discourage those who do just because they relate better to one cause over another?

We are only human — we can’t save the world as much as we want to, but we can do our part in helping to save a piece of it.

That’s why I’m such an advocate for awareness. Educate people, share with them, explain it to them, encourage them, as you say…Then and only then can you connect with someone, and when you connect with them, you reach an emotional level, and when you reach that emotional level, the caring begins and the difference happens.

And then anything is possible.

“Cause as I see it, getting angry with people for caring only encourages them not to. And then we end up with even more apathetic observers and even more frustrated activists.”

YES. I could go on and on, but I’m pretty sure your comment sums it up.

On a personal note, thank you for believing in me, when I was having trouble believing in that for myself. I can tell you that made a difference to me.

<3

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