When Overwhelmed by the News, Take Care and Start Small
August 3, 2022
Like many of you, I get a teeny bit overwhelmed watching or listening to the news these days.
More injustice. More war. More shootings. More sickness. More hate. More anger. I can try turning off the news or logging off Twitter, but there’s no escaping it. The news comes up in daily conversations and interactions with friends and family, on all my social media feeds, in email threads at work. Crisis after crisis. Outrage after outrage. Heartbreak after heartbreak. The problems of this world are so big, and seem so unending, and impact us wherever we are. What can we do? What should we do? Will it ever be enough? I know it may feel hopeless at times, and it’s totally fine to give yourself space to process and disconnect and not feel OK. I’d simply like to offer some words of encouragement and inspiration that have helped fuel me when I’m running on empty. Hope they can be a source of inspiration for you too.
#1 – “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
#2 – “The most beloved deeds to God are those that are consistent, even if they are small” – hadith, or saying, of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from the Islamic tradition
#3 – “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” – Queen Galadriel, “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m not famous or an influencer (one viral post on LinkedIn does not an influencer make!). I don’t have a fancy title or a lot of power, and I’ll probably never win a Nobel Peace Prize or be a hobbit on a quest to save the world, BUT I’ve never needed to be any of those things to make a difference, and neither do you! There is tremendous value in the seemingly small things we can do each and every day. A kind word, a helping hand, an honest conversation, even just a smile. And while we all want to see big change happen, big change is usually achieved through consistent, small actions.
I can’t end wars or solve the refugee crisis, but I can volunteer or donate money towards a nonprofit working to make things better for refugees in my community or organize a talk at my workplace to build empathy and drive others to do some good too.
I can’t end world hunger, but I can volunteer at a local soup kitchen or buy a meal for the homeless man I pass by at the train station on my way to work each morning.
I can’t end racism or Islamophobia or antisemitism or (insert any other form of hate here), but I can broaden my own circle and reach out to a colleague from a different background for coffee and get to know them better. I can attend a community event hosted by a local church or synagogue. I can read books or watch videos with my kids that teach empathy and kindness towards those who are different. I can take the time to educate myself about an issue or a community, seek different perspectives, and read beyond the headlines.
There’s a lot we can’t do. But there’s so much we can. So do your little bit of good wherever you are – at work, at home, at school, in the grocery store, at the airport, wherever! It matters.
#4 – “Whoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then with his heart. And that is the slightest [effect of] faith” – another hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
#5 – “Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge, or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Most religious traditions, at their core, teach us lessons of hope and faith when all seems lost. They teach lessons of patience and perseverance, of mercy and compassion. They teach us how to fight and stand up against injustice with our hands, tongues, and hearts. The great teachers, prophets, and heroes from our traditions, didn’t have it easy. They lived in challenging and uncertain times. They faced oppression and heartache. And yet, they persevered. They prayed, they spoke up, they took action. We’re called to right the wrongs we see in whatever way we’re able. We’re called to treat our neighbors, and ourselves, with love and compassion. I try to remember these lessons whenever I’m feeling lost, hopeless or angry. Others have gone through far worse. I can handle this. Which brings me to …
#6 – “Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out, keep ya head up … and handle it.” – “Me Against the World (Remix)” by Tupac Shakur
#7 – “Just keep swimming.” – Dory, “Finding Nemo”
Moral of the story: The night may be dark and full of terrors, but you are capable, you are resilient, and you can make a difference. We all have little bits of good we can do, wherever we are, whoever we are. So please take care of yourself, keep your head up and let’s handle it!
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Farah Siddiqui is a trusted thought leader in interfaith engagement and faith-based inclusion efforts in the workplace. At Salesforce, Farah was the Co-Founder and Global President of Faithforce, the Interfaith Employee Resource Group, which added the lens of religious identity into the diversity and inclusion space. Farah recently joined the DEI team at Google to continue her work to build and support an amazing culture which elevates and celebrates religious and cultural diversity at work. She is a 2021 Interfaith America Sacred Journey Fellow.