HolidayCooking

I do a lot of cooking around the holidays. But most of my life, I hated to cook. It was a chore and something I thought I wasn’t good at. When I started dating my husband, I realized that home cooked meals were acts of service for him. Cooking for him has become a key way I remind myself that love requires action and work. I cook for him (and our family) regularly and with a joyful heart. I even dare to say I’ve gotten good at it over the years. Once you get motivated to do something, you usually get better and better with practice.

This is how I’d like you to think about your holiday giving strategy this year. You may already be feeling motived to give, but not sure how to do it in a way that has real and lasting impact. Some years you may have been content with kind acts of charity that reaped immediate rewards. These acts include things like toy drives and providing food for holiday meals. These are generous gestures and clearly quality ways to give. But this year, you may be ready to go a step further.

You may be asking yourself the following question:

  • Do I want my impact on families to last longer than one holiday?

Which may lead to you to a question like:

  • Why don’t the parents have enough money for food or toys?

Which may lead to you to a question like:

  • Why don’t the parents have jobs that provide them with adequate financial resources?

Which may lead to you to more questions like:

  • Are there quality mental health services in place to get parents employable again?
  • Can parents truly focus on employment and education if they don’t have secure housing?
  • Are there laws and systems in place so parents can earn a living wage?

This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the paths your questions could lead you to. It is just meant to show you how “peeling the onion” on needs may lead you to a giving strategy that goes beyond the holidays. It may lead you to a greater focus on social change and not just charity. You may still want to give food and toys to needy families which is great. Just give in a way that best aligns with the love and impact you hope to provide this holiday.

Happy Giving Tuesday Everyone!

I hope you will take a moment to share online how and where you give using #GivingTuesday. As a close friend of mine said this morning, “Let’s break the internet with something that matters!”

 

FallThanks

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I have to admit it; I’m one of those people that doesn’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start my holiday season. I’m singing carols and thinking about Christmas decorations already. I know it’s wrong since Thanksgiving hasn’t passed yet. I just can’t seem to help myself. I know that Thanksgiving deserves better.

Thanksgiving is a tremendous holiday marked with amazing food and thoughts of gratitude and community. If you want to put the spirit of Thanksgiving into action right now, below are 70 simple ways to get started. Why wait?

70 Ways to Live Your Gratitude

  1. Send encouragement to someone taking care of an aging parent.
  2. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
  3. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  4. Register to be an organ donor.
  5. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  6. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  7. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  8. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  9. Share this post to give others ideas on gratitude in action.
  10. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  11. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  12. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  13. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  14. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  15. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  16. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  17. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  18. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  19. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  20. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  21. Cut a neighbor’s grass.
  22. Donate school supplies.
  23. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  24. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  25. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  26. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  27. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  28. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  29. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  30. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  31. Loan someone a book you love.
  32. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  33. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  34. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  35. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  36. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  37. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  38. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  39. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  40. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  41. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  42. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  43. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  44. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  45. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  46. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  47. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  48. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  49. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  50. Tell someone a joke.
  51. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  52. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  53. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  54. Pray for someone.
  55. Teach someone something. Anything.
  56. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  57. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  58. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  59. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  60. Hug someone.
  61. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  62. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  63. Leave change in a vending machine.
  64. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  65. Thank a solider for their service.
  66. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  67. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  68. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  69. Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
  70. If you love them, tell them.

This list has been building all year.

Which ones have you done already?

Which ones do you plan to try next?

Community

They say, “it takes a village to raise a child” and I’ve always loved that expression. I love it not just as a parent, but as a person that wants to be part of a village. Many of us long for the acceptance and support that comes from being a member of a broader community. Having a sense of community is also known to fuel service. Yet this sense of community has become harder to have in our modern lives. There are many reasons for that, but we can easily change some of those reasons if we want to.

Below you’ll find a few personal questions. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers – only “your” answers. They will highlight the value you place on building community in your life when faced with the tradeoffs. Your value for community may be higher than you expect. That should inspire you to make space in your life for “community” to form. Alternatively, your value may be lower than you expect. That should give you peace to live without worrying that you’re missing out on something you really want.

Privacy vs. Community

Definitions:

Privacy: The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

Community: A feeling of connection and fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Considerations:

Building the relationships that lead to community will require sharing personal information, authentic thoughts and genuine feelings. Choosing community will reduce your privacy.

Questions:

What’s more important privacy or community? How much privacy (if any) would you be willing to give up to build a sense of community?

Self-sufficiency vs. Community

Definitions:

Self-sufficiency: The state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction for survival.

Community: A feeling of connection and fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Considerations:

Building the relationships that lead to community will require dependency on others for emotional support, but also for help with tangible tasks. Choosing community will reduce your self-sufficiency.

Questions:

What’s more important self- sufficiency or community? How much self-sufficiency (if any) would you be willing to give up to build a sense of community?

Efficiency vs. Community

Definitions:

Efficiency: The ability to accomplish a task or job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.

Community: A feeling of connection and fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Considerations:

Building a community requires effort and time investment that is often otherwise spent completing more tangible professional or personal tasks. Choosing community may reduce your efficiency.

Questions:

What’s more important efficiency or community? How much efficiency (if any) would you be willing to give up to build a sense of community?

 

Is community worth it for you?

 

Birdsfeed

Last week, I was talking to a friend about the rare and remarkable village she has created around her family. She has several friends and neighbors that play an active role in making her life work – like picking up her son from school when work meetings run long. If you’re reading this blog, there is a good chance that you are very willing to help out others and be the “giver”. But are you willing to ask for help yourself? Are you willing to be the “taker”?

Being a “taker” is a very important role in building your own sense of community and encouraging service as a way of life. Asking for help gives others opportunities to be the “giver”. And by being the “taker” you give your relationships opportunities to grow. You set the tone of support and community. It is not the giver that starts the chain of love. It’s the taker.

Many people struggle with the vulnerability of being takers. This is just natural. But if you’re brave enough to be a taker, here’s how to get started.

    1. Ask anyway. Start with a task you could use help on, but can easily take care of yourself if support is unavailable. For example, ask a neighbor to get your mail when you’re away instead of having it held at the post office. This has to be a conscious choice to ask for help even when another more self-sufficient option is clearly available. Don’t miss the opportunity to build community. Consciously, be the taker.
    2. Dare to be in someone’s debt. Be brave enough to owe someone. It sounds like a small thing, but fear of being in someone’s debt is why many of us never ask for help. Push through the fear and don’t obsess about how or when you will repay debts. Confidently, be the taker.
    3. Share service. It feels good when you know you’ve helped someone. Let someone else have that feeling too. If you think of it, always wanting to be the giver is a bit selfish because it hogs all the positive rewards that come from service. Kindly, be the taker.

 

Are you brave enough to be the taker?

Fall Leaves

I celebrated a birthday last week so I was off from posting taking a mini-vacation. I’m glad to be back. I used my time to think about next steps for the blog and my life in general. Milestones (like a birthday) often give us a nudge to examine the momentum in our lives. They often inspire us to inspect our path in the pursuit of a uniquely meaningful life. And make changes if we need to.

We may take a rare moment to ask ourselves:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • Who do I want to come with me?

Milestones give us a reason to ponder things that don’t come up in everyday life. For some people they use their birthday to trigger this. For many others they wait until January and create a New Year’s resolution. They may resolve to get healthier. They may resolve to offer forgiveness more freely (or at least try to). They may resolve to volunteer their time to a cause they believe in. Most resolutions will promote a service lifestyle. I believe that any goal that makes you a better you, makes you more equipped to serve.

I just want you to consider setting these goals in September instead of January. And here’s why:

September vs. January

  1. Reflecting on your life requires emotional energy. You likely have more emotional energy now in September than you will in January. Love and acceptance replenish our emotional bank accounts. If you’re like many people you spent more extended time with family and friends in the social summer months than at one-off holiday events. This has probably given you more emotional energy.
  2. Setting achievable goals requires creativity. You are likely more creative now in September than you will be in January. Playtime and having fun is essential to maintaining your creative mind. So you’re likely to be much more creative after the summer than after your hectic holiday schedule. A creative mind is vital when finding new ways to fit goals into your life. Finding space in an already full schedule is rarely easy. You may have to get creative.
  3. Sticking to goals requires physical stamina. You likely have more stamina now in September than you will have in January. This one is just a no-brainer. When was the last time the holidays left you feeling refreshed? On the other hand, hopefully you were able to relax at a few cookouts and maybe even a summer retreat.
  4. Nature will inspire you. You likely find the natural surroundings of September more inspiring than you will in January. There are reasons to see beauty in every month, but few get inspired by the cold, dreary days of January. On the other hand, let’s think about September. It’s a popular wedding month for a reason. September ushers in mild temperatures with refreshing breezes. And if you’re geographically lucky, you may also get to enjoy beautiful trees lighting up with vibrant colors. Seeing the beautiful things that God has created reminds you of the beauty inside of yourself. But, are you letting that beauty out?

So what do you think?

Is September a better time to make a resolution?

Tents

Last week, I wrote a post about how to support someone leading a revolution. This post was written at the very beginning of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and mere hours before the simmering anger in Ferguson, MO turned into a full blown fire. These two topics may seem to have little in common, but both inspired a fury of commentary on the role of the individual in impacting change.

You’d think all “do gooders” would get along. We have one important thing that unites us – we all want to do good deeds and serve the world we live in. But for most issues we unknowingly separate ourselves into two distinct camps with opposing views on what doing good truly looks like. And that’s where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Ferguson, MO brought our differences to the surface. All week my Facebook feed was filled with conversations bordering arguments from some of the most amazing and compassionate servers I know. Which camp are you arguing for – Evolutionary Servers or Revolutionary Servers?

Camp Evolution

The definition of evolution I’m using

The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

How Evolutionary Servers affect change

Evolutionary Servers work within the current system to make gradual improvements. They take a pragmatic approach to meeting the needs of today first, but also plan for the needs of the future.

Why they’re needed

  • Evolutionary Servers meet people where they are. They often figure out how to get a broader audience more engaged even if they aren’t fully committed yet. They open the door to dialogue usually in a non-confrontational manner.
    • An example from this week: ALS is a horrific disease that is grossly underexposed and underfunded. So Evolutionary Servers don’t mind using tactics like a somewhat trivial Ice Bucket Challenge to raise immediate funds and awareness. They are not overly concerned that the funding is coming from less committed donors. They are not overly bothered by the fact that the funding level will not likely return again. They are successfully serving in the here and now. And right here and right now they have raised a lot of money and are bringing in a major victory for a cause that desperately deserves it.
  • Evolutionary Servers are trusted and respected by the masses. Their efforts though slower to bring about large scale change prepare the world for the right time to support a revolution.

Why they often clash with Revolutionary Servers

  • Evolutionary Servers sometimes feel attacked by their revolutionary counterparts. They want to stand with them but don’t appreciate being judged when they don’t push the envelope as far (or as fast) as Revolutionary Servers want to see it go. They view Revolutionary Servers as preachy, judgmental and at times unrealistic.
    • An example from this week: Evolutionary Servers found themselves “called out” for not speaking out against injustice. Many wanted to withhold comment until the facts surrounding Michael Brown’s death were more concrete and tensions in Ferguson had reached more manageable levels.
  • Emotionally, Evolutionary Servers have spent a great deal of energy improving a current system. Having that system completely changed by Revolutionary Servers could appear to invalidate their efforts.

Camp Revolution

The definition of revolution I’m using

An overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

How Revolutionary Servers affect change

Revolutionary Servers work to overhaul a current system in favor of a brand new system. They believe the current system is broken. They work within the old system to support immediate needs, but their main goal is to overthrow the old unjust or ineffective system in favor of a new one.

Why they’re needed

  • Revolutionary Servers are the people that provide new opportunities for a better world beyond what we can currently imagine.
    • An example from this week: To a Revolutionary Server the Ferguson case is an electrifying catalyst to address more than just the actions of a single police officer. It is an opportunity to engage individuals and institutions in an action-focused campaign for massive change. Revolutionary Servers stand ready to push the catalyst for revolution into systematic change. And they are not shy about forcing discussion and action.
  • Revolutionary Servers are the people that make the masses uncomfortable. They push people out of their comfort zones and make individuals they touch better for it.

Why they often clash with Evolutionary Servers

  • Revolutionary Servers sometimes see Evolutionary Servers as a hindrance to systematic change. Because Evolutionary Servers work within the current system their successes help give the appearance that the need for massive overhaul is less acute.
    • An example from this week: This is where the Ice Bucket Challenge caused so much tension. It is a win for ALS funding and the researchers that need that money right this second. But it is a potential loss for anyone that wants to see the current system of “disengaged giving to charity” replaced with a new system of “committed partnerships for change”. Revolutionary Servers see a win for the old system as a setback in the movement towards the new system. And the Ice Bucket Challenge was a BIG win for the old system.

Are both camps needed?

Could the camps work better together?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Please post them via social media or in the comments below.

Love kiwi

There’s something magical about close friends talking with nothing in particular they need to cover. The conversation is free to dart all around and uncover new ideas. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy one of those unstructured phone calls with a friend while she waited at the airport. Somehow the conversation landed on the concept of falling in love and whether it’s possible to feel those feelings without a romantic relationship. I believe you can find many of those feelings through service. Here’s how:

  1. Service (like falling in love) deepens your own self-worth. It is important that I differentiate “falling in love” with “being in love”. Falling in love is more about how YOU feel than anything you’re giving to the other person. Falling in love is you appreciating someone else for appreciating you. Being in love is when you start the real work of loving them. Service definitely requires that you do work for others, but there’s a very personal impact as well. Service reminds you that you make a difference and that you’re valuable. Self-worth makes you feel safe and maybe even a bit invincible. This is similar to how you feel when falling in love.
  2. Following a service passion (like falling in love) requires deep vulnerability. Letting someone into your heart is extremely vulnerable. It is scary and dangerous, but it also feels great. It feels great because deep down you want to be truly known for the beautiful imperfect person you are. You may fear vulnerability, but you also crave it. You have to bring down your walls to let love in. It feels scary and exhilarating, but it also feels natural. Being open is our natural state. Service inspires the exhilaration of vulnerability as well. You have to care to act. You have to act to serve. Caring forces you to open up emotionally to let compassion in.
  3. Service (like falling in love) helps you grow and discover the things that you and you alone can offer this world. When falling in love, you see a magnificent reflection of yourself in your lover’s eyes. Finally you feel seen and known. And I don’t mean known for the small details that have made up your life. I mean known for the things that uniquely make you a glorious being. I’m talking about your perfect combination of wit, humor, strength, weakness, intellect, spirituality, etc. This will include other attributes like how adventurous, sensitive or faith-filled you are. When you’re falling in love your special God given gifts rise to the surface and become more pronounced. It’s like your lover has held a mirror up that shows you more than just physical beauty. This mirror shows you, “you.” It shows you the person you always knew was in there, but you may not have seen for a long while. And you’ve missed this version of yourself…a lot. Service is a similar mirror. It gives you a place to bring your gifts and uniqueness out of the shadows and place them on full display. It gives you a place to see and be your glorious self.

Would you like to fall in love again and again?

Explosion

This weekend my husband and I had some extended time with a young man that we consider to be a part of our family. He wasn’t brought into our lives by birth, but he was bought into our hearts for a purpose. He’s going to start a revolution and he’ll need our support.

When I picked this title I thought I better make sure I knew exactly what the definition of revolution was, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Revolution: A forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

At the ripe old age of 19, I see the spark of revolution in this young man. His particular revolution involves overthrowing the social order that views almost anything that is synonymous with the inner-city as “hood” and “ghetto” and therefore inferior. This is a very complex issue. Like most revolutionary campaigns it will be hard work and require a massive commitment to service.

I’ve never been someone to start revolutions, but I think it’s important to support them. Revolutions don’t just make things better, they change the world. They introduce concepts and systems that were previously off our radars all together. Revolutionary people are often very passionate about service, but they need to be served as well. Supporting them fuels the fire that sets the revolution aflame. Here are three things to consider when offering support to a revolutionary thinker in your life.

  1. Don’t be afraid of crazy. Try to let your mind think beyond our current realties. There was a time, not that long ago, when the internet did not exist. Even democracy was once a brand new concept. Were these things crazy at the time? Yes. Were their founders crazy? Yes. Would you have been able to support them?
  2. Embrace naivety. In most cases being naïve can be a detriment, but in a revolution it’s a strength. People that are well grounded and informed often get deadlocked by the complexity of finding a reasonable solution. But the naive get right to action. They start trying because they believe they can make a difference. And they do, because they are actually working on it. We can offer them wisdom, but it’s important not to crush the innocence that’s fueling the revolution.
  3. Be a safe place. Believing passionately in something (anything) opens you up to examination and judgment. Grant them your unconditional acceptance. Make sure they know that if they make mistakes along the way, they will be learning moments. Let them know that any learning moments will just make them better prepared to serve.

Are you starting a revolution or supporting a revolution?

Newspapers

Last week, I wrote a post about caring. It was about the tracking of our interests in news stories and how that data reflects what we support or care about.  My point was that the simple and seemly insignificant act of caring about a social issue can actually help create tangible change. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here.

I realize now that I wrote these posts out of order. Though this post will be Part II on caring, it really should have been Part I. I should have started by talking about caring in a more personal way. Because broadly caring for others is core to serving, but more importantly it is core to being fulfilled and happy.

Here are the two things I should have pointed out last week:

Caring will teach you how to identify your feelings.

What are you feeling right now? Can you tell? If you’re like most of us, it is often hard to pinpoint exactly what we feel. Happy? Sad? Bored? I get pretty irritable when I’m hungry so I have to watch that closely. Knowing what we feel is the first step to managing our requests. We have to know what we feel if we hope to accurately express what we need. Sometimes what we need is food, but it can also be something more important like respect. We have to express what we need if we hope to have others honor that. And we have to know who will and won’t honor our needs if we want to have the right support team in our lives.

Caring about strangers in a news story helps you get familiar with your feelings. It helps remind you what sad feels like for you. It helps you pinpoint how anger builds for you. Are you familiar with your pang of hopelessness? What about your version of fear? Are you familiar with how you experience these things in your mind, in your body and in your heart? You can’t think through the answers to these questions. You have to feel them yourself. Caring about strangers gives you a chance to experience these feelings in a more controlled fashion. If it’s too much at first, turn the TV off or switch to another webpage. Try again later. But remember how it made you feel.

Caring for strangers is a low risk way to increase your tolerance for being vulnerable.

If you want to have strong, amazing and dynamic relationships you will need to get comfortable with vulnerability. Period. This is not negotiable no matter how much you may like feeling safe and being in control. Do you like the idea of having an awesome marriage, “to the grave” friendships or crazy-loving family bonds? If so, you will HAVE to get comfortable with the idea of caring deeply for people that can and will hurt you. You will have to get comfortable with letting the actions and choices of others have an impact on your emotional wellbeing. It isn’t easy. But it is through vulnerability that love and trust grow.

The good news is you can actually build up your tolerance to vulnerability every time you chose to care about anything or anyone you can’t control. Try this the next time you watch the news or read an article about human struggle. Don’t just take in the information analytically, pause and try to feel yourself caring for the individuals. Imagine if it was you or someone you love. Let their faces stay in your mind. Let them in fully knowing that you can’t fix things and you probably can’t help them. Let that vulnerability in. Then say a prayer for them and move on. Every time you do this, you will get more comfortable with accepting vulnerability. This will serve you when being vulnerable has higher more personal stakes. And it will make you more at ease when you need to choose between opening up or playing it safe.

Ok, this is my second case for caring and I hope it’s a strong one. I sincerely believe that caring broadly will serve you more than you might imagine. Trust me, it’s not a waste of your time.

Do you have a better case for caring?

I’m all ears.

Chicago

A day ago, a close friend posted two very different status updates. One post was about the astounding level of violence in the streets of Chicago last weekend. The other was about getting her day kicked-off with iced coffee from Starbucks. Same person. Same day. Which post do you think was most popular? If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit to enjoying the Starbucks post more. It was fun, light and relatable. I’d just left Starbucks too.

The Chicago post made me sad and left me feeling helpless. I scanned by it at first and only came back to it out of guilt. I knew what the story would say before I read it – 1. Random violence in poor neighborhood. 2. Things are getting worse. 3. Many dead. It was not in any way uplifting. And I read nothing that made me hope things would get better. Was that a waste of time? Was that a pointless drain on my positive outlook? I say no, and here’s why.

The case for caring.

Media outlets, politicians and marketers have become increasingly sophisticated at noticing what we care about and then feeding it back to us (again and again). For the purpose of this post when I say “we” I mean the vast middle class that everyone hears so much about during election season. They notice that we care about celebrity stories. We care about feel-good rescue efforts. We care about the untimely deaths of people that are supposed to live in safe areas and aren’t supposed to die young. We care about strong beliefs and the showmanship of political fights. We definitely care about consumer products (hence the Starbucks post). And you better believe we care about anything that involves winning big from sports to business.

So that’s what we do care about. What’s something we don’t care about?

We don’t care about people dying in poor drug-infested neighborhoods. I won’t pretend that race isn’t a factor too, but that’s a different post for a different day. The urban death toll story has been told a million times so in many ways we are desensitized to it. And we find it hard to relate to the victims. They may have been involved in committing crimes. They may just be poor which means they have yet to “boot strap” their way to more safety and success. This implies that being poor is mostly their own fault and clearly not how we would be living if in their shoes.  Again, we can’t relate nor are we trying to. Yes we feel bad, but no we don’t want to read stories about it. No, we don’t want to click on that link about young people dying in senseless ways on a weekend we spent celebrating and eating hot dogs. It is an emotional drain to care and our caring doesn’t seem to help anything.

They know what we care about.

People in power (within business, media, and politics) spend hours tracking and analyzing the numerical data on what we care about. They know what we click on and what we don’t. They closely track what we tweet on and post on. They know if we share a link or simply “Like” it. They even know if we stayed on the page long enough to have actually read the article or if we quickly left. They may know if we ran any follow up searches on the topic. They know if more people than normal are sending emails with the word “Chicago” in it. Thanks to Google Analytics, I’ll know if this ends up being my most unpopular post yet.

I realize we can’t pay attention and care about every issue. What’s happening in Chicago is just an example of what mass indifference looks like and how it spreads. It perfectly illustrates how a holiday massacre can become just a minor national story. It isn’t my intention to imply that urban violence deserves more focus from you than a service area you may care more about. My main point here is that caring is tracked closely and caring makes a difference. Whether or not people care about an issue has a dramatic effect on the resources and public attention given to finding a solution. And our small acts that demonstrate we care about a topic (reading and sharing articles, liking posts, and engaging in thoughtful dialogue) matter. They matter a lot.

It’s a struggle to care. As the title says, it is often uncomfortable and sometimes inconvenient. But every little bit counts. Have you closed your emotional doors to the plight of strangers, current events or problems that seem unsolvable? If so, I’d encourage you to try to open them again. I’d encourage you to fight ambivalence and to care more freely and more broadly. Caring does matter and they’ll notice when you do. Numbers don’t lie.

Agree or disagree?

Is caring worth the hassle?