Friends, let me tell you a story.
Three years ago, a friend of mine started a club. The purpose of this club was to raise awareness about human trafficking, and to make what difference we could in ending modern-day slavery. I was passionately involved in this club, and the following year, was an officer in it. I believed in the cause, I loved the people in the club, I felt like the little we were doing mattered. I had a grand vision of myself graduating college, swooping into third-world countries, and saving them from their poverty and despair. This vision expanded beyond slavery; in my fantasy world, I was going to solve world hunger, end poverty, and give everyone an education.
And then...something changed.
Maybe it was fighting with my then-boyfriend about whether or not I had a "Savior complex."
Maybe it was the remorse I felt after I stood up my roommate for a temple trip in order to chat up the visiting founder of a non-profit organization I was particularly interested in.
Maybe it was looking into the research done on certain types of NGOs, and realizing that oftentimes, they did more harm then good.
Whatever it was, in the middle of a letter-writing session at Free the Slaves Club, it finally all caught up with me in a rush of futility
I started making excuses not to come to meetings.
I stopped advertising the club to everyone I met.
I told the other officers I was too busy to be an officer anymore.
And then I disappeared from the club.
Since then, I've focused my service efforts closer to home. I've mentored local children and volunteered in elementary schools. I've tried to be a better sister, a better roommate, a better friend. I've tried to make the most of my church callings. I've realized that I can do more good for those in my immediate vicinity than for those on the other side of the world. I haven't been perfect, but I'd like to think that I've made a difference.
And all this time...I've kind of been ignoring what I can do on a more global scale. I tend to get overwhelmed when I think about all the many, many things that are wrong in this planet. Knowing that any tiny effort I can make will have an almost negligible affect has discouraged me in the past, and has kept me from doing the little I could.
But tonight...somehow I ended up back on my old club's blog. And I found a link to chainstorereaction.com. At first I rolled my eyes, thinking, "Oh yeah, writing letters to corporations, that's real effective." But then I saw the quote from Margaret Mead on their consumer page, reading, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." And I thought of the story of Naaman from the Bible, who would have done "some great thing" had the prophet counseled him to, but who was reluctant to go through the simple act of washing seven times in the river. And so I followed the link, and signed my name to some form letters to companies like Speedo, Lunchables, and Pizza Hut.
And you know what? Maybe it won't make a difference at all. But maybe one of those companies will get enough of those letters that they'll change some of their business practices. And maybe that change in business practice will hurt one slaveowner. And maybe that will bless the lives of just a few people. And if it doesn't, I invested all of five minutes into it.
I'm still not sure if I'm ready to dive back into the international development world. I think right now the primary way I can make a difference is to concentrate my efforts on becoming a better teacher, so that I can enrich the lives of my future students. And my boyfriend was right...I did have a savior complex. I've worked hard at overcoming it these past couple of years, and I'm afraid that reentering that environment would bring it back. I want to help, but I want it to be for the right reasons, not simply to satisfy my pride. Nonetheless, I think when opportunities like this come, opportunities to make some kind of difference in global problems I truly care about, I can't feel justified passing them up.
If you've gotten to the end of this post..thank you. And can I make a request? Will you check out chainstorereaction.com? If you don't agree with what they're doing, then feel free to close the tab and don't think about it again. But if you, like me, think that corporations could use a reminder to keep their labor slave-free, go ahead and fill out a few of their form letters. And will you also go check out BYU Free the Slaves blog? The people there are passionate, committed young people who are doing their best to make a difference, and they could use your support.
Not one of us is going to save the world today. And I highly doubt any of us will be the next Mother Theresa. But I'm slowly...slowly realizing that that isn't the point at all. We can each only do a little, tiny, infinitesimally small amount of total good in the world. But when all those tiny little drops of good combine, we can flood the world.