A few years ago, I posted a blog similar to this one and about the same topic, but it is something that often is on my mind in regards to All Things New. We are still planning to write an update blog on each of our kids and talk about what they want for their future along with a blog series about some of the most important topics in regards to aid and orphanages. But the idea of the “greater good” has been on my mind a lot lately so I am going to try and communicate my thoughts on this topic and then close with why this is such an important topic in our ministry, in our churches, and even in our own lives and families.
The idea of the greater good is really a concept tied to ethics and more specifically tied to a system of thought called utilitarianism. It is also used, from time to time, as an argument for or against military action and it signifies the idea that a negative or difficult thing needs to happen to make things better for the majority of people. I am by no means arguing for this system of thought or commenting on this in regards to negative actions brining about positive change. I only mention it to say that this blog is specifically to call attention to the way we make decisions and how this can set us up for the “greater good” or the “really average.”
Many of you that are reading this blog have heard the “Starfish Story” either at church or through some other avenue. The basis of the story is that there is some beach in Mexico where thousands of starfish washed ashore after a storm and they cannot return to the sea. In order to save the lives of these starfish, a little boy is walking up and down the beach throwing each individual starfish back into the sea but as soon as one goes in hundreds more are washed up. The bottom line of the story is that a stranger sees this little boy helping the starfish and says, “What kind of difference can you make when every time you throw one back in another is washed ashore and there are tens of thousands of starfish on the beach?” The little boy replies, as he throws another starfish into the sea, “Well I made a difference for that one.”
This story is supposed to encourage us to continue fighting for people and trying to make a difference in the world even if we can only help 1 person and even if it seems like we are barely making a dent in the world’s problems. I think the message is good at face value, but it speaks to one of the biggest problems I think we see in the world and that is the idea of living a reactionary life rather than a proactive one. It is the idea that once we help that one person we are done until the next person comes along asking for my help. Or as long as I gave someone some money a few years ago or helped someone the last time they came seeking my assistance, then I am good. However, as followers of Christ that is not what we have been called to do. You see, when I hear the starfish story, I don’t think about how great it is that the little boy is saving individual starfish, I think about how he could instead come up with a plan to help thousands if not millions more. The question becomes:
“Are we reactive or proactive in our lives and decisions?”
Of course there are times that we have to react to certain situations that are out of our control, but I am speaking of the general way in which we live. It is vital that we live our lives in a way that glorifies GOD and that does not come without sacrifice and purpose. We do not just wake up with a natural desire and ability to live a purposeful life. We must work proactively to be a part of “The Greater Good” rather than “The Really Average.”
- Do we wait for the homeless person to come and ask us for a couple of bucks so that he can eat a meal or do we volunteer at the homeless shelter and give our money to help as many people as we possibly can?
- Do we wait for a ministry to come and ask us to “consider giving a donation” or do we set aside a portion of our paycheck every single year and every single month and then proactively seek out those ministries that we believe in and trust?
- Do we schedule our kids’ sports, ballet, instruments, dramas, etc. and then, with whatever time we have left in a week, commit to going to church and teaching our kids about GOD? Or do we set aside nonnegotiable times each week where we will be as a family worshipping our Savior no matter what else is happening?
- Do we set a budget that allows us to be more and more generous each year or do we react to our own emotions and desires and spend our money on our own pleasures regardless of what they are at the time?
- Do we fill our time with television, restaurants, phones, etc. or do we set aside consistent time throughout the weeks and year to volunteer and give back as churches, families, and individuals?
- Do we plan vacation after vacation to show our kids how much fun they can have if they really work for it, or do we take our kids on mission trips and service projects to show them what it means to give their time and their talents to help others?
- As the ministry of All Things New, do we continue to move forward and react to every problem that comes along and do the best we can, or do we understand that we have a lot of older kids and that finding them a job is super important? Do we look at the community surrounding us and really hope that what we are doing will help, or do we spend time praying and planning the best things that we could do to transform Gressier? Do we see the potential that our kids have to do great things and push them towards those things rather than just waiting for things to fall into place?
What if that little boy who was throwing individual starfish back into the sea instead went and recruited his family and friends to come down to the beach with him? What if he told his Dad about the problem and they were able to procure some sort of heavy machinery that could scoop thousands of starfish at a time? What if they could build some sort of small “Starfish netting wall” that stopped all future starfish from washing ashore and let them stay out in the ocean?
My challenge to all of us today is to be proactive in how we help. Everyone reading this blog has this huge potential to be a force of change in this world, but too often we stop at “average” and never get to “great.” We stop at average because average does not take planning, it does not take sacrifice, and it does not take changing the life we are already living. My challenge is for all of us to look past “Really Average” and strive as hard as we can for “The Greater Good.”