Wednesday 12 November 2008


I see a lot of shrugging lately. I shrug lots too, mind you.

“Cat broke a dish? Oh well!” Shrug.

“Missed my connecting flight? Oh well!” Shrug.

“Ran into a group of dignitaries when turning a corner singing Bizet’s Carmen really loudly? Oh well!” Shrug. …Blush.

A certain amount of shrugging is healthy in anyone’s life, especially if you’re a klutz/absent-minded/human.

That’s not the type of shrugging I’m talking about. The type of shrugging I see a lot of lately is more along these lines:

“War in Afghanistan? Nothing I can do!” Shrug.

“Government cutting all useful programs? Nothing I can do!” Shrug.

“Children are going hungry? Nothing I can do!” Shrug.

I’m not saying that anyone should truly believe they can change the world all by themselves – that’s just a silly and tiring thought. It wore Superman out and it will wear you out too.

The world can’t rely on one hero. Again, silly. And not everyone needs to tackle big causes, although kudos to those that have the stamina and courage to do so.

The little things also make a difference in the long run. Be kind to others. Don’t treat everyone like the enemy. Pay attention and speak up.

I may be simple-minded (I’ve been called far worse), but it seems that instead of looking at the entire fabric of human reality and being intimidated by it, it might be best to just look at the smaller picture, the one unfolding directly around you. Do you see a couple of creases you might be able to iron out?

If we believe in the ripple effect or Chaos Theory, then every little thing makes a difference.

A smile here might make someone’s day. Not screaming at the waitress when she screws up your order won’t crush her for days. Not moaning incessantly when trapped in long line-ups at the stores will make the wait that much more pleasant for everyone.

Thinking that maybe, just maybe, the universe isn’t out to get you, after all. (I personally don’t believe the universe is out to get me – I truly believe it doesn’t give a damn. Which is nice, otherwise I’d have incurred much wrath by now.)

I wish I knew more about the big issues. Not from lack of reading or research, mind you, but rather from lack of knowing which sources to trust. It’s one crazy media world we live in!

I don’t know how to stop AIDS in Africa, but I know how to donate and wear a ribbon. I don’t know how to stop the government from cutting programs close to my heart, but I know how to write to my elected representative. And I certainly don’t know how to save a starving child, though I wish I did, but I know how to make one smile when he’s crying, and I know how to donate to the Food Bank.

I also don’t know if any of it makes a difference. I gave a pair of gloves away once on the coldest day of the year - I don’t know if that person truly needed it or was trying to get extra sympathy money. I gave my lunch to a man who was with a child and claimed he didn’t have money to eat – I wish I knew if that was true, or if my lunch (smoked meat sandwich with homemade bread!) was just thrown out. I once held a girl while she sobbed in a bathroom – I never found out why she was crying, but she looked like she needed someone to hold her.

And I certainly don’t know the conclusion to those stories. Did I make a difference or was I just a good laugh later on? Was I just a sucker that didn’t know any better and gave in? Were the gloves thrown out, were food donations wasted, was my last quarter given to a panhandler used to buy booze?

I really don’t know. I wish I did, but I just don’t.

Theirs is not my story to live. I was just a secondary character in those lives, just passing through, and I can only hope I made some glimmer of a difference. Like the guy in video game quests who gives you the right item or piece of advice to defeat the next bad guy. I like to think I might be him, once in a while (except more feminine, attractive and less two-dimensional in every sense of the word. Well, I like to think so, anyways).

The way I see it it’s a 50/50 investment. I give to larger charities and hope my money isn’t squandered, and I give to individuals I meet and hope that isn’t squandered either, but there are no guarantees.

In life, there never are, really.

At least I sleep well at night. (My roommate would attest to that).

And if at the end of day I find out I was a sucker for trying to make a minute difference?

Oh well!


… Now wasn’t that just nice and philosophical? And that, boys and girls, is what happens when you don’t have enough (flavoured) coffee in the morning. Kind of leads you to wonder if coffee isn’t responsible for all of the world’s woes, eh?