Change: Where To Start

There are those days you feel so uplifted, so inspired, you feel like anything is possible and fixing this messed-up world together is a piece of cake, if everyone pitches in. And humanity is so promising, so why wouldn’t everyone want to help repair? 

Then there are days, which are most days, in which your faith in humanity is almost completely drained. You watch two minutes of the news, you see a documentary on human trafficking, you read a heart-wrenching article, you hear someone’s painful story, you witness death as often as the number of breaths you take– and you realize, humanity is terrible. We are in the twenty-first century and yet there are still those of us who prefer to live with brains, cleverness but without a conscience, soul nor heart.

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The ink has dried and the pen has been lifted; nothing is happening without the consent of God.  The true struggle is to realize this and still realize that it is our responsibility to create change for the better. I had a good friend of mine recently expressing her understandably bitter resentment of the events in the Arab world, and then she added, “I hate to say this, because I know I shouldn’t. I hope God forgives me for saying this… but people are being oppressed and butchered at the hands of obviously bad people. Why is He not answering our prayers, how could He be letting it happen?”

It was difficult to answer because I didn’t know. I know He is All-Wise and it’s not my place to even question it.

But something Dr. Abdal Hakim Jackson said recently a few days ago during Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference really rang with me: “The fact that God allows things to exist, does not mean He is pleased with it.”

This is something to motivate us, to make us realize all is not lost, we have the power, and in fact, the responsibility to fix the world we live in. And yet, things appear so bleak sometimes. To change… where to start? Who to start with, where to even begin? Theorizing is helpful, but it doesn’t get one far. Change needs commitment, sincerity, honesty, integrity and wisdom. You can’t change everything all at once, and yet sometimes that’s what we most want to do. Helplessness, powerlessness, or the perception of it, is the absolute worst condition to be put in. This is why I get irritated at our current mainstream media: as important as it is for the world to be aware of atrocities committed, it is equally important to be aware of the progress and amazing work individuals and great organizations are doing for humanity, to boost people’s morales and motivate them to contribute as well. It seems almost everyone wants to make a change– and yet so little are doing so. WHY? Could it be because as soon as one gets that surge of courage, some determination and willpower– that the news is flipped on and all optimism is drained out? 


That’s the way I feel sometimes. Sometimes I feel like as long as I work on myself, give to others as much as I can, focus on being a great teacher to help raise an alert, aware, passionate and creative generation, I am fulfilling my role that God wants me to do. And then I watch a documentary, I read a book, I listen carefully, and it almost feels like the only value I can possibly bring is if I was, right now, over there, doing surgery on that innocent person who just got attacked– or giving healing counseling to the traumatized child in that country (oh there are so many)… sometimes you think, what’s the point of trying? What am I really doing with my life? And you give up before you try.

Something in the Twitter #RIS2012 feed got my attention, sent me chills, and I wish I knew which speaker said it:

“I fear asking God where are You during these atrocities, because He may ask me, where were you?”

I pray that when we face Him on the Day when there is no turning back, that when He asks us “where were you?” we will have an answer ready… an answer He will be pleased with.

But hey. Maybe that seemingly insignificant duaa you made, because you did not know how else to help, did make a difference. And maybe the little bit of money you donated, wishing you were a millionaire instead, did make a difference because of your sincerity. And maybe that article you shared, thinking no one will read it but it’s worth a shot, did get someone doing something bigger. And maybe, just maybe, everything you do, regardless of how small, actually did make a difference, because it started within deep inside of you and expanded when your ego deflated and your heart could fit more people than yourself. And maybe, just maybe, change begins with the individual…

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” (Rumi)

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~And Allah knows best.

A.S.

 

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