I was talking to my friend Tony LoRe the other day, and he was lamenting the issue now facing so many non-profits since the economic meltdown: corporations and individuals withdrawing their support to devastating effect. Tony runs an organization called Youth Mentoring Connection, which partners at-risk youth with both individual big brothers and sisters, and with mentors through entertainment concerns such as HBO and Paramount. Kids who might otherwise be hanging on the streets and being seduced by gang culture, are picked up after school and taken to a place like Warner Bros. to spend a few hours working alongside entertainment professionals, learning what they do and talking about what's happening in their lives. That's just a small part of what Youth Mentoring Connection does, but the thing is that the stunning result of all this seemingly innocent interaction is that 90% of those kids end up graduating, and going on to higher education!
After hanging up the phone, I felt really depressed. Not so much because of Tony's conundrum but because I once again felt overwhelmed by my own dilemma: how the hell can you help all the people in the world who need assistance? Sometimes life just feels so unbearably sad. In my busy life, which involves running two businesses anchored in the arts (which means I have to hustle extra hard), writing books (and blogs), being a jewelry designer and freelance museum curator, I also feel compelled to answer the call to help others in whatever way I can. One of my businesses has me interacting with an Amazonian indigenous group which is currently experiencing a deadly outbreak of malaria. A small donation has already alleviated the outbreak among 40 of the 200 members in the village. How can I not help the rest of them? Immediately following this annoying question comes the other even more pesky matter of the constant need in my native country, Haiti. Somehow hosting fund-raisers and sending donations to various groups feels so insignificant!
Haitian painting "Sharing" by M.C.V. Latortue
And then I read the recent New York Times Magazine issue dedicated to the plight of women in developing countries around the world. The various articles focused on such nightmarish subjects as bride-burning, institutionalized wife beating, the sale of children into prostitution by their parents, acid attacks and mass rape. It also delivered concrete solutions to saving women by helping them participate in the building of their country's economies, and in the process, helping to rehabilitate the world's economy. How do you not do something, anything, to help right these terrible wrongs?
Finally, there are the gnawing problems here in our own backyard: maintaining an active presence in the political realm: gotta keep the pressure on those no-good, spineless democrats who seem all too happy to cave in on health care reform (it's hard to move forward when your pockets are so heavy with lobbyist cash); donations are needed to produce those hard-hitting ads Americans listen to with such religious dedication; marches and rallies must be attended to make sure your voice is heard on important issues.
So, I get depressed about how much I can do; how my pockets are not that deep; how even if I could spend all my days helping those in need, it would never be enough. And that's usually when I remember that all I can do is the best I can. Because just as individual drops of water join to form the mighty ocean, so does each drop of help bring relief -- even if just momentarily -- to someone who desperately needs it. In the end, life is not made up of days and weeks and months and years but by each moment. And if only one moment can be made sweeter by just one of our acts, then we will have fulfilled our purpose.
In the meantime, just to choose from one of the endless causes to champion, you can help Tony LoRe's Youth Mentoring Connection keep its doors open by donating $5.00 on their website. To get involved or to find out more about the joys of mentoring, you can contact Tony LoRe at email@example.com.
Remember, all you can do is the best you can.