Like so many people I know, I’m struggling to respond to acts of terror around the world. I search for wisdom, look to other thinkers, try to make sense of the senseless.
In his book What Then Must We Do? (first published in 1886), Leo Tolstoy asks that question over and over. Jane Addams said in an Introduction, “Tolstoy’s presentation of the contrast between the overworked and the underfed poor on the one hand, and the idle and wasteful rich on the other, was felt as raising unanswerable questions in every country where the book was read.”
I learned about the book in a scene from The Year of Living Dangerously that has stuck with me for years. Linda Hunt’s character Billy Kwan, a photojournalist, says, “I support the view that you just don’t think about the major issues. You do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light.”
James Taylor sings about light in his “Shed a Little Light.”
“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther KingWhat then must we do? One person alone can never make up for lives lost, homes destroyed, families torn apart. But I believe that we are bound together. Together we can begin to lift a burden for someone.
and recognize that there are ties between us,
all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood,
that we are bound together
in our desire to see the world become
a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us
and the road that lies ahead.”
We have so many burdens to lift.
What matters to you? Poverty? Hunger? Refugees? Racism? Health care? Education? Women’s rights? Voter rights? The environment? Climate change? Animal welfare? The list goes on and on.
The only response I know is to try to do some good in the world.
Do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you.
Add your light to the sum of light.
We invite you, our readers (and your students), to join in by sharing your own "gratitudes" with us in one of four ways:
- Share them in a comment to any of our blog posts through Friday, November 27.
- Send them to us via email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, with "Thanks-Giving" as the subject. Depending on the number of emails we receive, we may share some of your gratitiudes in our posts.
- Post them on online on your own blog, Facebook page, etc., and then share the link with us via a comment or email. (Feel free to include the image above in your post.) On Saturday, November 28, we'll provide a round-up of all the links we receive.
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JoAnn Early Macken