I usually have an aversion to over-simplification; I don’t like bumper sticker philosophy or theology. Too often, in my experience, short pieces of wisdom, though well-intentioned, can be misinterpreted or can lead to people feeling guilty or ashamed that their lives don’t somehow fit into a narrow construct.
But sometimes, short sayings do contain wisdom, helpful wisdom. One of the mantras that’s been in my mind recently is this one: “what we focus on shapes our reality.” Real scientific research has shown that positive thinking has a physiological effect. People who choose to pay attention to the things which bring their lives joy and purpose become healthier people.
July 2014 has been a month with an exceptional amount of bad news. From the plane crash in the Ukraine, which has accentuated growing tensions there, to the horrific violence in the Middle East…add to that our awareness of the plight of young children crossing the border…fires and drought in America’s west…sometimes the news seems unbearable. What one writer labeled “compassion fatigue” sets in.
As Christian people, aware of our connection to all of God’s children everywhere, putting our heads in the sand isn’t an option. But immersing ourselves in the news and feeling hopeless isn’t helpful either.
I have been trying hard to focus on those people that are making a difference for good in the world. I became aware of two examples this week. Tomorrow there is a presentation at the Cleveland City Club entitled, “How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans”. The presenter, Mickey Edwards, will describe specific reforms that are designed to help end gridlock and revive democracy. Just looking at the title of that presentation makes me feel more hopeful. Instead of complaining about the culture in Washington, I’m going to read more from Mickey Edwards and follow the progress of his campaign towards more effective politics.
Second example: you may have heard of what is being called “Detroit’s water crisis.” 140,000 customers are being faced with water shutoff, owing an average of $540 in back water bills. Two women, who found themselves on the social media site Twitter, decided they wanted to help. They are connecting people who owe money to the water department with people from around the country who are willing to provide assistance. So far, they have raised $20,000 to help 4,500 people. It’s a proverbial drop in the bucket (excuse the pun) but I was inspired by these two women who want to help strangers in another part of the country.
Focusing on people who are part of the solution, rather than people who are part of the problem, changes the way I look at the world. It opens my mind to new possibilities. It keeps me from despair and cynicism. With God’s help, this focus will help me, too, find ways to be a force for good. What we focus on does shape our reality.