“There are thousands and thousands of homeless children on the streets of Brazil. There is no way you can help them all.” No way you can help them all–those words have played over and over in my head for years. To me, they were fighting words. A challenge. A dare that made me want to say, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do. Don’t tell me I can’t make a difference. Don’t tell me I can’t change the world.” ~Noel Yeatts, Awake
The Lucky One- Chapter 1
In the first chapter of Noel Yeatts book, Awake, she shares the story of Nildo, a homeless boy she and her sister befriended on the streets of Brazil. After buying him some clothes and a meal, the group Noel was traveling with was forced to move on quickly without Nildo. That night after collecting money from the group, they realized they had enough to provide care for him for at least 2 years. Nildo’s life would be forever changed. Clearly, Noel’s would be too.
Reading Nildo’s story, I can’t help but think I’d have done the same thing–al least, I hope I would–
But I also know how overwhelming it can be when you’re staring down an issue that is massively bigger than yourself.
Extreme poverty is so much bigger than me. It’s not a stretch to understand why people assume that they cannot make a difference.
But what about Nildo–does one life changed make any real difference in the bigger picture? Are there less homeless starving children living on the streets of Brazil because of this one act?
Yes. At least one less. And that’s the point, ONE life changed matters.
Noel’s initial interaction with Nildo resembles what so many of us want to do.
We want to clothe and feed the poor and starving. However helpful that may be, that help is temporary.
In order to help those suffocating under the weight of poverty and affliction, we have to invest in them. Our good intentions alone aren’t usually enough to create lasting change.
Comfortably Numb- Chapter 2
Noel says, “We want to change the world”, and I think this is generally true.
We all want to have an impact, to do something that lasts beyond ourselves. The problem for most of us is, we simply don’t know where to start.
The other question we must answer in order to truly make a difference, is: am I willing?
Just because I want to do something, doesn’t mean I am willing to do it. Willing means work. Willing means risk and potential heartbreak, willing means commitment, investment, and generosity.
If I’m honest, I have to ask myself this every single day–am I willing?
Will I invest whatever resources I have to help make an impact or will I close my eyes again?
Margarita’s horrific story causes my belly to burn with righteous anger. To think of a child experiencing the things she did, and then struggling with infections and the various other trauma’s that she did, ought to be enough to fire anyone up.
But as upset as her story makes me, I discovered after reading it, how quickly I managed to put it out of my mind. Too quickly. Reading it again, I felt the heat burn again in my gut–but I wonder how long it will last.
Between my various daily tasks and activities, it’s all to easy to avoid thinking about stories like Margarita’s or Nildo. Sometimes, this avoidance is intentional, but I think most of the time, it’s a product of my environment.
If we chose, we can live our whole life so filled with these distractions that we never have to face–or be confronted with–real, desperate needs. ~Noel Yeatts, Awake
Most of us are blessed to live very removed from this type of suffering. As a result our sensibilities grow dull and we become lethargic to taking real action.
It doesn’t require much for me to become outraged at the various atrocities I read about in this book.
But how long will my outrage last? Is the fire in my belly enough to make me move out of my comfort zone into action? The outrage is easy, it’s in becoming active that I stall. As Noel writes, “I want to see the needs. I want to feel the needs. I want to touch them.”
After reading Noel’s book, I don’t have a lot of answers.
More than anything I am left asking myself a lot of questions–mainly, am I willing?
This post is part of the book study for Noel Yeatts book, Awake: Doing A World Of Good One Person At A Time. You’re welcome to join us for this book study even if you haven’t read the book. Jump in in the comments and discuss it with us.