The Privilege of Innocence
The phrase “the privilege of innocence” bubbled up in my mind last week, about the high cost in integrity and intention of simply not knowing, and the utter necessity of “staying woke” once we do know.
I can know that 1 in 5 residents on my own county doesn’t always know where their next meal is coming form, because a colleague of mine is involved with a non-profit organization that has delivered meals to more than 8,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic. (ExtraFood.org)
I know of the struggles immigrant children in my county have learning English (during COVID!) because a colleague runs an amazing local literacy program for them. (ForWords.org)
I know of the power of educating girls and young women in developing countries to advance the development of the entire country because friends are directly involved in programs that do that. (Project Education South Sudan, and S.H.E. Fund in Kenya)
I know of the high financial and emotional costs of the over-focus on “cure v. care” from my sister-in-law being in the ICU with COPD at the moment of this writing (and from reading The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life.
This privilege of innocence – of not knowing because we simply don’t know (rather than deliberate denial) – is a dance of “fighting the forgetting” and staying woke, finding ways to engage and effect change.
And there’s the challenge of engagement without overwhelm, compassion without burnout. I’ve always had a deep philosophical commitment to offering practice guidance in these posts. And I myself wonder, most days if not every day, whether the clinical work I do to help clients heal from childhood sexual abuse or revise the spark in a deadening marriage is enough.
The teaching story goes: after a huge storm off the Pacific coast of California, one man saw another man slowly walking the beach, picking up starfish that had been thrown up on the beach and throwin them back into the water. The first man said, “What are you doing? There are hundreds of starfish here! You can’t possibly make a difference.” As the man tossed another starfish back into the ocean, “It makes a difference to this one.”
Perhaps it is enough.
I offer here this time a light in the darkness rather than a step-by-step exercise.
Behind every human being who crise out for help there may be a million or more equally entitled to attention. How to determine which of on million sounds surrounding you is more deserving than the rest? Do not concern yourself in such speculations. You will never know, you will never need to know. Reach out and take hold of the one who happens to be nearest.
– Norman Cousins
You don’t need to do everything. Do what calls your heart; effective action comes from love. It is unstoppable, and it is enough.
– Joanna Macy
And I wish you well, in the banner of these newsletters, for staying woke and healing and awakening into aliveness and wholeness.