In the midst of historically challenging times and as we face a pandemic, a national reckoning over racism and systemic injustices, political turmoil, and so many natural disasters, I have encountered many people who share with me this sentiment: What can I do? How can I respond when so many people need assistance? When my neighbors are hurting? When the world is ailing? How can I be present and support the community, but also keep my community and myself safe?
Gabriela Mistral, a Nobel Prize Laurate from Chile, wrote a poem about the Pleasure of Serving:
“Toda la naturaleza es un anhelo de servicio:
sirve la nube, sirve el viento, sirve el surco.
Donde haya un árbol que plantar, plántalo tú,
donde haya un error que enmendar, enmiéndalo tú.
Sé el que apartó la piedra del campo,
el odio entre los corazones,
y las dificultades del problema…”
(All of nature is a yearning for service:
The cloud serves, and the wind, and the furrow.
Where there is a tree to plant, you be the one.
Where there is a mistake to undo, let it be you.
You be the one to remove the rock from the field,
The hate from human hearts,
And the difficulties from the problem…)1
In this same poem, Mistral talks about how small acts of service also count. I’m in awe of the many ongoing efforts to support our community. For example, I’m in awe of how a group of amazing doctoras and outstanding community members are making such an impact in the local Latinx community with the LATIN19 group. It’s been especially meaningful reflecting on their efforts as we recently celebrated Latinx Heritage Month.
These small acts of service, which our nature calls us to do, added together can make an important difference. Look close to home and help your little sibling with virtual school, for example, or be patient with your children for whom fear of missing out (FOMO) has become a very real missing out. Think about the non-profits in your community. They have more work than ever as they are working under new conditions. They are in need of assistance with tasks such as fundraising, designing websites and writing grants. If working pro-bono is an option, many organizations can make use of your professional skills. Check out this contact list and these videos of local non-profits and service organizations seeking volunteers.
There are many important ways to contribute in our community these days (many of which can be done virtually). Below are a few ideas of small acts of service that can help you make a difference: Call your grandparents and the seniors in your community so they feel less isolated. If you speak other languages, look for opportunities to translate or interpret. You could also virtually tutor or mentor children in your local public schools. Explore volunteer opportunities of this kind here. Consider the many ways in which you can engage with the community at this time. Participate in one of the outstanding trainings available in support of social justice and vulnerable groups. If you have the privilege to do so, make sure to vote!
We are all in this together. This time the challenge is personal. You are accountable only to yourself. What are you going to do when the world needs you the most?