6: You Will Not Save the World But You Can Make Your Unique Impact
Let's talk about our want to save the world, our fear that what we do will never be enough and a potential way forward that our full humanity into account.
You're listening to A Call to Serve. This is a podcast calling entrepreneurs, coaches, healers, creatives, and transformative leaders who want to make a difference in their communities to show up with integrity, use their power and practice radical service. My name is Andréa Ranae. I'm a facilitator, coach and writer focusing my work on holding space for leadership and liberation.
This is episode #6. In this episode, I want to expand a bit on this idea that I’ve shared on social media + to my email list. This idea that you will not save the world.
I grew up feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and that was very much connected to family dynamics, especially with me being the oldest child and one of the oldest cousins on my mom’s side. But it was also tied to the way I was treated in school, what I picked up from church and especially what I absorbed about current events in the world as well as our history. So I spent most of my teenagehood trying to learn everything about everything wrong or harmful in the world (and I honestly haven’t stopped that, but what has changed is the feeling behind it).
I was so in tune with all of the pain, anger, neglect and suffering around me and in our world, I just wanted it to stop, I wanted people to have compassion and empathy for one another, to see the human in each and everyone of us and see that we are all worthy of dignity, love and care. My family called me the hippy child. I would go out some weekends with friends or with my dad or my cousins with a big sign that says “free hugs” on the streets of Chicago just to make people smile and feel seen. I made a video on tumblr about loving your body that went viral. I was volunteering with elders diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and support organizations working in eliminating sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Oh I remember when I first found out about sex and human trafficking - I went deeeeep down the rabbit hole. Ah and I remember when Obama had Osama Bin Ladin killed - I was so upset by the dialogue happening in the media and online, just the celebration that was happening after his death. I would write poems and essays about this stuff and how we create the monsters we’re afraid of and are therefore responsible for them but we act like they’re an abberation. Like I was all over the place, y’all.
And I knew that I wanted to do something to tend to all of these things but I also knew nothing I could do would be enough. And this is why I wanted to talk about this today, because I hear and see this so often – people just like me stressed about whether or not what they’re doing or what they’re contributing is enough and feeling so overwhelmed by the nature of the issues and problems we’re faced with. And it gets to the point where we get frozen in inaction because we don’t know what to do that will actually shift some things ON TOP OF the fear that so many of us have that we might do more harm than good in our efforts.
And if you’re listening to this, you’ve probably experienced what I’m talking about on some level.
But you know what? You’re right, it will never be enough. Not because you don’t have the right skills or you’re not taking the right actions. Not because I was a teen and had very little influence on these massive cultural and societal issues, but because I was one person.
You are one. person. In a sea of 7 billion. In a world full of systems and cultures that have been created, cultivated, upheld, reinforced and changed by our ancestors over hundreds and thousands of years.
And even if you, or a large group of people got together and somehow burned everything down and dismantled all of the institutions that stand to prevent marginalized folx from our human rights, deep down nothin would change. Because the systems and institutions we want to burn down are just manifestations of what’s inside of each of us. They are placeholders and justifications for the way we relate to one another on a interpersonal, cultural and collective level.
Collective issues cannot and will not be resolved by an individual person. Collective liberation cannot be achieved by one person. You can’t even take a chunk out of it, not even a bite, maybe a nibble. But that lil nibble is wonderful, important, necessary and your responsibility. That lil nibble is yours and only yours to tend to.
So breaaaathe. Put down the things you’ve been carrying on your shoulders for so long. The things that are not yours to hold. And pick up the things that you are perfectly positioned to take on. And when we do that we give others space to show up for what’s theirs to do. This is part of what I’m talking about when I say “claim your lane.”
You’ve got to have a clear understanding of who you are and the gifts, skills, capacities, power and resources you have available to you and then show up with them and put them into action.
Today is the 4th of July, Independence Day in the US and I’m thinking about and paying attention to the national conversation and action happening around immigrants and refugees being kept in cages and denied their human rights, I came into the recording of this podcast holding the juxtaposition of freedom being put on display. That in one part of the country, families will be gathering and celebrating our great nation and in another part, families who left their home countries to seek safety, asylum and possibility in ours have been torn apart, some killed, by our government all under the guise of protecting the freedoms of said great nation. It’s wild to me, y’all.
And it’s heavy.
And it sends many of us into a frenzy or into powerlessness or hopelessness or reckless rage. And I think that some of us get worried when we hear things like “take the weight off your shoulders,” because what then? We need the pressure on us to get things moving! What if we all get complacent, there’s already enough of those people out there that are acting like the world isn’t burning, wouldn’t taking the weight off just create more?
Here’s the thing, the feelings will still be there. The rage, the sadness, the grief, the pain. It will all still be there. There is so much reason for it in our world right now. But what the frenzy and hopelessness does is disconnect and uproot us from our power. If we are consumed in the “oh my god how could this be happening!!” there is often very little space for the “oh my god, this is happening. And fuck it hurts. And I’m pissed and I grieve for and with the people directly affected.” We have to feel it. If there’s no space for you to just feel what’s coming up for you, there sure as hell won’t be space for you to intentionally channel those emotions, that energy moving through you, into actions that are aligned with your values, vision and especially not actions that are sustainable.
Our emotions are a primary source of energy. Some might say that they are unreliable and unsustainable. I disagree. I think our personal and cultural relationships with emotion is unreliable and unsustainable. And when we discount them as frivolous or an inconvenience or simply a non factor, we cut ourselves off from the power we have within us. Our emotions guide and protect and inform us about our boundaries, our values, they remind us of our commitments, let us know when something has become unsustainable and help us find our way to back to pleasure.
I do understand that our feelings and emotions change moment to moment and so they can’t be counted on as fuel, but they are power nonetheless and it benefits all forms of oppression when we are not tuned into ourselves. Any way, I could talk all day about our emotions and maybe I’ll do a separate episode on this (in the meantime I definitely suggest you read Audre Lorde’s speech on the Uses of the Erotic – so so good).
All of this to say… let yourself be human, one human *and* at the same time, take a look at the power you’re leaving on the table. You have so much available to you. We have so much available to us. And if we want to go out and make change happen, we’ve got to take stock of that.
You bring something unique and something necessary into the mix. It won’t save the world but when we each show up with what we have, we have a chance.
May we equitably share the weight of the sacred and audacious work we’ve inherited from our ancestors. That’s my prayer
If you’d like some support on claiming your lane and showing up for the work that’s yours to do, I’ve created a new course called Make Your Impact. I’ll be taking your through a process that will help your create a roadmap for yourself, your vision and the work you’re doing in the world to move forward in a powerful, impactful and sustainable way. Check it out at http://bit.ly/myi2019.
And before you go, please take a moment to share this show with your peeps or leave a review or both! I’m excited to get back into this show – the first half of 2019 has been a whirlwind. And I have some really inspiring guests coming to the show throughout the next few months as well as some solo episodes like this one and I want to make sure this gets out to as many people as possible! Thank you thank you thank you! Talk soon.