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February 17, 2011
-O que você sabe fazer bem?-perguntou ele.
-Ir atrás do que acredito.-Não havia outra resposta. Vivia correndo atrás do que acreditava.
O problema é que cada dia acreditava em uma coisa diferente.
~Brida (Paulo Coelho)

“What do you know how to do well?” he asked.

“Pursue what I believe in.”  She couldn’t think of a better answer.  She lived her life following what she believed in.  The problem is that every day she believed in something different.”

I read this passage in Brida last night, a novel written by my favorite author, Paulo Coelho.  The passage resonated with me because I, too, put so much effort and passion into pursuing my beliefs–yet I, too, constantly modify my beliefs based on new experiences, new information, and new people I encounter and interact with. 

My dream has always been to make a positive difference in the world, and I’ve run around the country and the planet trying to figure out what difference to make, where to make it, and how to make it.  There was a time when I thought politics was the best arena in which to make a difference; there was a time when I thought city and community planning were the best mechanisms for making a difference; there’ve been times when I’ve considered moving to other countries to make a difference; and times when I’ve thought, can I really even make a difference?

Every night when I eat a full plate of healthy food at dinner, and again when I lay down to sleep in a warm bed, I think about how incredibly fortunate I am and I pray for God to guide me in sharing my blessings in the best way possible.  I’m happiest when I can see and feel that my life is serving to lift others up, and I get somewhat depressed when I feel that I could be doing more.  I’m constantly questioning my own actions and attitudes, and sometimes I feel I fall short.  I have too much and I give too little; I always want to give more and I get anxious when I can’t.

I guess I’ve been feeling anxious lately.  I feel like I’m not giving enough and I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel that way.  I work hard at my job.  I put a lot into my relationships.  I guess I think back to the 4.00 GPA I earned as an honor’s student in college and wonder if I shouldn’t be doing “bigger and better” things, whatever that might mean.  But on the other hand, I know that sometimes the biggest and best things a person can do are simply love and care for the people around them.

In fact, this is my one solid belief that never, ever changes:  that loving our families, our neighbors, and ourselves unconditionally is the one true path to real, positive change in this world.  My struggle, I suppose, is really a struggle to overcome the overachieving culture I was raised in.  Where’s the time for love if I’m supposed to pursue advanced degrees, get a prestigious job that keeps me on my toes, and keep up with the Jones’s?

“Live simply” reads a wooden plaque in my bedroom.  I believe it is the best way to live.  Seek and offer love, and leave life at that.  Imagine the changes that would take place in this world if we all developed the patience and empathy to love each other a little more.  We’d wipe out so many of the world’s plagues:  war, poverty, greed, selfishness, low self-esteem, doubt, fear, frustration… but instead we fall into the traps set by mass media, which tell us that the answers to all of our problems lie in diet pills, self-help books, new clothes and cars, beating down the democrats, or beating down the republicans, or beating down whomever serves as the current scapegoat… and so on.  Where’s the message to simply slow down and care for someone?

There once was a message like that, and it was even popular for a brief period in time.  In fact, I think it was the original text abbreviation:  WWJD.  It came before LOL, LMAO, WTF, and all the other 21st century abbreviations we’re now used to.  Sadly, none of the modern abbreviations convey a message as positive as WWJD:  What Would Jesus Do?  This message has gotten lost somewhere along the way.  Would you do what Jesus would do?  Or would you just LOL at Him for trying so hard to teach us to love each other in a world that doesn’t make it easy?  I might get LOL’d at, but I think I’ll opt for love over prestige and power.  I might never get featured in the Schreyer Honors College alumni bulletin, but at least I’ll be pursuing what I believe in…

One Comment
  1. Kelly N permalink

    It’s been a while since I’ve read your blog, but I saw it linked on facebook… so here I am.  I love this.  Every bit of it.  I’ve had so many of the same desires, thoughts, and questions too.  My heart is very much in the same place.  I know you already know this, but teaching — as hard as it is to do well, and as hard as it is to feel accomplished — is by far one of the most effective ways to make a difference in this crazy world.  I am sure that over the years of your teaching career, this mindset – “live simply” – will be what sticks with your kids more than the math or sociology concepts that you teach them.  And that’s what really matters.  

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