I posted a new blog entry on the Doug Pagitt Radio Web site today about the effects of collective goodness. You may either click the link or read a copy pasted below.
For much of my life I have been a bit like a high-functioning Piglet. You are probably aware of the small, fearful friend of Winnie the Pooh. Most people would not know how fearful I am, but sometimes I feel controlled by it. As an antidote, I began to engage in what I call small acts of bravery. This involves doing things that scare me, not big things, small things like talking to someone new at church. Bravery became easier, so I challenged myself further by deciding I would refuse to say no to an opportunity just because I was afraid. After all, I found it impossible to discern if I would like something new when gripped by fear. By choosing to try things, even when scared, I discovered some new loves, such as being on a radio show and writing a blog.
Collectively my small acts have developed my bravery muscles. This seems like a pretty good approach for any new practice be it exercising or meditating. Yet, I tend to hate moderation. If I am going to do something, I like to do it BIG. Not that big is bad, but sometimes I wind up doing nothing at all because I do not think I can do it in a significant way.
After our conversation with Kimberly Yim about her book Refuse to Do Nothing on the DPR show February 7th, I had some new thoughts about the collective effect of small acts. All the things we are doing to make our lives better have a cumulative effect. Yim spoke specifically of the way our individual actions can combat sex-trafficking arguing those independent acts work together in ways we may never realize, but this concept can also apply to any of the good work we are doing, be it for ourselves or on behalf of others.
Maybe it is our individual good work that collectively builds the kingdom of heaven right here and now. It is like building with toothpicks while blindfolded and without a plan, but beauty can unfold in the accumulation of small acts. I do not believe it helps to engage in this kind of work solely with some end product in mind just as I do not engage in small acts of bravery in order to arrive at a fixed state of braveness. Rather it is the process of building that smells like the parables Jesus told about the kingdom, built from small actions that take root like small seeds.
I suspect this is one of the central themes to the gospels. While our small contributions of goodness may be unknown and unseen to most, they are all rooting down, connecting to a collective goodness. Whenever we are kind, forgiving, loving, brave, and open to one another in other small ways, I believe that becomes a part of the ecosystem of the kingdom, supporting the world, even in the midst of pain and suffering. I believe God is apart of this too somehow, loving us a long the way, perhaps handing us a toothpick now and then.