Monday, September 20, 2010

Emptying the Ocean with a Teaspoon

My last few posts have been very advice-y, but this time I am asking for some advice from you. I have been making headway with decluttering, I feel like I am simplifying, I understand the importance of prioritizing, but I am still a little overhwelmed by one aspect of my life: the desire to give more.

I have always said that my main goal in life is to try to make the world a better place. When I graduated college, I became a social worker with this goal in mind. Unfortunately, I lasted about six months and then quit. I felt like I was just shuffling people around without really helping them, and had started lying awake all night worrying about the children I was supposed to be in charge of.

For the next five years, I worked for a large insurance company. This was a great job, with fantastic co-workers and an acceptable salary, but I longed for the feeling that I was making a difference in someone's life. In 2007, I decided that my calling was to be a nurse. I started taking pre-requisite classes, applied for a BSN program, got accepted, and became a registered nurse in 2009.

Now I love what I do. I  have daily opportunities to ease pain, improve quality of life, and help someone get through a terrible day. I feel like I am doing what I am meant to do. I feel really lucky.

In my free time, I am also trying to do more to make a difference in the world. The book Do One Nice Thing by Debbie Tenzer helped a little- the idea is to start by doing one thing to help someone else each week. I signed up for an automatic monthly donation to the Humane Society. I started volunteering once a week at a free clinic. I visit the sites Free Kibble and Free Kibblekat (that donate kibble to an animal shelter for each visitor who answers a trivia question) most days. I bike to work instead of driving. I recycle. I have a rescue dog.

The problem is that I can't decide how much is enough. I have free time to volunteer more. I could consume less. I could have sent $138 to the Pakistan relief efforts instead of spending it on a pair of Kate Spade sunglasses. I could adopt more shelter animals. I am overwhelmed by how many people in the world are suffering while I relax, well fed, in an air-conditioned house. I feel like I am using a teaspoon to empty the ocean- I understand that I am making an impact, but it's very hard to see the results.

Does anyone else feel this way? Has anyone overcome these feelings? Is the answer to become Mother Teresa, working tirelessly to help others and owning only a chair and a blue sweater? Or do we say that just doing something is enough?

Any insight is very much appreciated!

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