Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Faith Works 5-27-17

Faith Works 5-27-17

Jeff Gill


There is little you can do



Graduates of the many and various classes of 2017, crossing stages and platforms and red carpets this weekend, allow me to address you.


There is little you can do.


I know, I know, there are better commencement speakers all across the region who are putting this more positively than I am right now, but it seems like you might benefit from a slightly different take as you head into whatever comes next.


You can't do much. Really.


A better class of speaker will solemnly remind you that you are capable of great things, that your generation is full of individuals who can change the world.


Well, maybe not.


The economy, just to go right to the cash box, every presidential administration tries to tell us is entirely due to their management when things are going good, and when they go bad, we get a clear message that the previous administration was able to mess up the entirety of our goods and services and employment just by their misguided actions.


Actually, they are mainly reacting to events that economists still debate the causes of, or the best courses of action to follow. The Presidency doesn't set the stock market average over a quarter or the gross domestic product or workforce participation. Maybe a nudge here and there, that's all.


Global climate change? Well, you can swap out your fridge for an icebox if you can find one, and go cut your own ice on a neighbor's pond if you can find the right storage space and sawdust; you can walk or bike to work, but those sneakers made in Indonesia or the touring bicycle from Italy each cost a fortune in carbon offsets to get shipped from there to here. In the end, you can't make that much of an impact on the ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by your actions.


Culture? You could learn an instrument or visual art skill and not only master it but be a brilliant creator in that medium, and still go broke. Ask Vincent Van Gogh, or Scott Joplin. How did Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts become stars and other talented thespians end up as wait staff at the Olive Bell, or Taco Garden? You're not likely to drive the culture, but be driven by it: surf the wave, but you're not going to create the crests.


Invention? Thanks to "Sports Night" and William H. Macy, many more of us know Cliff Gardner than Philo Farnsworth now, but quite a few, the majority really, know neither. And they actually invented something successfully. But to make a fortune off of it you have to have a fortune to start with, it seems; investors don't change much, they just know how to follow it.


You can't do much. Nope. So what can you do? Well, you can be kind. Which gets you funny looks, but over time, being kind gets you smiles in return. A modest balance forward. Not much, but something.


You can vote. Your candidate may lose, but you know better what you stand for and who you stand with when you make the practice of being an informed voter a habit. You'd be amazed what you can learn, and who you learn from, if you just do the basics around voting. Local elections in particular give great clarity on small but significant things.


You can love. Love your family, your nearest and dearest, and work on extending that circle, but don't push it out so far, so fast, that you love a vast cause in the abstract and forget to love those persons by your side. It's small, but it's a good place to start.


And you can have faith. AA talks about a "higher power." I talk about Jesus. Many speak of God. As David Foster Wallace said just up the road some years ago, we all worship something. What we get to choose is what (or Who) we worship.


Mother Teresa famously said "'Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." And small things add up. In lives and love and faith, in economics and environmental justice and civic good. And when we band together in our small things, as Margaret Mead is said to have suggested: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world."


You really can't do much; we, on the other hand, can do almost anything. And "with God, all things are possible."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; you can see why he wouldn't make much of a commencement speaker. Tell him about addresses you've been inspired by at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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