“You can’t save the whole world and you’re just going to end up feeling disappointed.”
My dad told me this last weekend when I had suggested taking in a fifth dog. The owner was going to euthanize the five year old hound because he was so overweight that it was causing health problems. I get it; there are a lot of dogs in that house plus chickens in the back and they are all quite expensive to care for. What I didn’t get was the phrasing. Why not frame it as an economical issue, or better yet, provide an alternative? It got me thinking: Is there something wrong with trying to save the entire world even though it is an impossible job?
Grace Paley, a political activist said, “Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world.” I think what’s important here is the idea of fear. It is a scary undertaking to look at the world as say: Yes, there is so much here that needs to be done, and I will be one who does the work. The world can be a scary place. Fear should mobilize people, not scare them away from trying. It is truly impossible to save the world, but is that supposed to mean that I can’t try?
I don’t think the goal is to get to “the end” and feel that the world has been saved, all have been liberated, and we are at peace. I think that each soul on the planet is unspeakably precious and worth saving. I want to iterate here that I am not proposing a sort of “savior” complex that can become harmful in terms of international human rights and feminism, but rather, the idea that all those in need of help are deserving of it. Suzy Kassem, author of Rise Up and Salute the Sun stated that “saving the world” actually meant speaking to the language of the heart, the commonalities of people, so they will want to change alongside you. She argues that saving the world implies an individual, psychological change. By resigning myself to save the world, and joining a community of others who share this utopian idea. As this community grows, the world changes and gets a little bit better every day.
The goal isn’t to save everything in the world. It IS, however, saving everything that you can. I CAN save that dog’s life. I am in a position to do something about it. And that matters to me. I do not feel disappointed in myself for things/situations/people that I am not in a position to save. I simply resolve myself to get to that place in my life where I can. I DO feel disappointed for choosing not to save something that is within my power.
All we can ever do is what we can. And in the name of love, justice, equity, and happiness- we must continue to do whatever we can.