A passed exam, freshly brewed coffee, the birth of a child or the liberating sensation when looking out on to the open ocean – few people would be depressed by such events. Contrary thereto, we never know for certain what the day will bring, whether we will get hurt, lose our job or whether a war will break out as did most recently in the Ukraine.
Thanks to modern technology, global events can be followed while each of us are almost instantly able to witness happiness respectively misery in far-away places. All the while, rejoicing with others in moments of bliss comes effortlessly whereas the realisation of our individual powerlessness makes it difficult to bear the misfortune fellow human beings endure faraway. The good news is that peace and mindfulness are needed universally, not just in an unreachable distance, but also right next door. We just tend to forget.
The agony of others makes us feel helpless
After the world has barely caught its breath since holding it for months in fear of the global pandemic, the next crisis blows full steam. Again, we are exposed to the unprovoked trauma of others not able to march up to the bully in charge and disarm him. Sympathy and benevolence are supposedly human nature.
For example, this is expressed through the universal ratification of the UN’s Agenda 2030, i.e. SDG 16 that aspires for us to live in a just and inclusive world, in which people not only live without fear of violence but also are afforded the possibility to develop their potential. Where disaster or atrocities threaten the lives and well-being of children, women and men, we feel sad. We feel helpless in that, we intuitively want to help but often cannot. Not only does witnessing others’ agony dampen our spirits, but the continuous subjection to distress can also make us ill. That is why recalling the spaces we as individuals can have an influence on is essential.
Peace or positive impact are not a matter of quantity
Our helplessness is often paralysing fus to conclude there is nothing we can do to help those in need far away. This is mostly true for disasters happening abroad. While emotionally involved in distant agony, we tend to forget that compassion is needed close by too.
Volunteering to shop for an elderly neighbour who is not only frail, but also terribly lonely may award unexpected gratitude. Such a gesture is no less an act of humanitarian aid than the delivery of thousands of food packages to a war zone. Lifting our heads towards the people coming our way, looking in their faces, perhaps greeting them, and thereby acknowledging them can kindle peace right there and then. There are always opportunities to be kind, mindful and therefore relieve emotions of helplessness.
Although what is known as ‘the butterfly effect’ has often been debated, the theory does hold an appealing encouragement; if one single butterfly can cause a hurricane by flapping its wings, surely our own individual efforts must count for something. A small act of a tiny insect is unlikely to cause a hurricane, but small human actions can catalyse a larger movement. Meaningful and lasting change is often achieved by a critical mass initiated by only a few.
Acting on our state of mind
We need not to grow wings for us to express our disapproval of bullies or to reveal compassion where there is suffering. And even though it is unlikely that the efforts we make will change the course of the stars, they count and can make moments of helplessness easier to bear.
Traveling with an open mind and heart, consciously seeing our surrounding, the people we live or work with is being mindful and as such will always disclose opportunities to promote peace near and far. So let us not forget “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.