Aimee and I bring our dogs to a nearby lake a lot in warm temperatures. The dogs run and play and Aimee and I soak up the sun, hug trees, and listen to the mini waves roll in. It’s a beautiful sanctuary for us to unwind after our daily work in the world of collective grief.
I also spend significant time picking up glass and other pieces of trash along the beach.
Glass shards are in such abundance that I cannot walk more than two steps without having to pick up another one. People also leave behind beer cans, fishing lines, straws, plastic bags, and toys. Yesterday, I found a headless Barbie and a GI Joe. Each day we go there, I pick up a grocery bag full of debris left over because of people’s careless actions.
I know that my contributions won’t clean the entire beach. My actions may make the area a bit safer for those of us playing there, but there is just too much trash. With the summer right around the corner, beach go-ers will certainly leave behind more bottles, cans, and bags. It feels futile.
Yet, I persist.
I keep picking up the trash because it’s the right thing to do. I cannot, in good conscience, pass the shards of glass or sharp pieces of metal without picking them up. Through the process of cleaning the beach, I feel useful. I feel that I’m helping the beach ecosystem and others who visit this area.
The same is true for work in resilience- and community-building. Our collective actions as a species have so drastically changed our atmosphere that we are now committed to at least(!) two degrees of global change. We’ve seen the impact of this change: massive storms, droughts, flooding, and wildfires. These impacts will worsen and become more frequent. Humans and other living beings are already suffering and we’ll see more suffering.
Yet, I persist.
I help other people come to terms with the gravity of the predicament. I share space either digitally or in person and build a Network of folks concerned about the future of the planet. We dig deep into uncertainty and mortality. By looking at the things we most want to turn away from, we become stronger. We become braver and more compassionate. It is through processing difficult truths and our past traumas that we build strength and connection.
The Good Grief Network cannot reach everyone (though our program is scaleable). I cannot stop the worst impacts of climate change. I cannot stop the ecocide occurring each day. But like picking up the endless debris on the beach, the process matters. Through working the “10-Steps to Personal Resilience,” I am cultivating inner stillness and strength to continue forward in an unpredictable world. I am becoming flexible in my approach to these predicaments and am learning to let go of my expected outcomes. Additionally, I am helping others to build “islands of sanity” in their local communities.
Even when it seems that our actions are too small to matter, we must persist. Because I matter. Because you matter. Because actions create ripples and we may never know how far they reach. We persist because in good conscience, there is no other choice.