Sitting here in San Francisco, over 6,000 miles from Kyiv, I bookend my day with the NY Times and PBS NewsHour. The rest of the time I worry about work and running and relationships and my dog barking and if my sunflowers are germinating and what time to have my housecleaners come.
It’s a form of self-care, 6,000 miles away, to “turn off” and not try to keep up on a moment-by-moment basis. I tell friends that checking the news once a day really gives you the same information as checking the news all day, with less heartbreak.
Underneath that self-care (which I stand by), is a very stark realization that those who are suffering the most cannot “turn it off.” I don’t have to turn off a sky filled with mortars, a threat of soldiers tramping through my city. I don’t have to turn off instructions to make Molotov cocktails or stand in line to receive a weapon. I don’t have to decide to enlist in an army to ensure my country doesn’t disappear.
It is yet another case of a type of survivor’s guilt, or whatever it is you call the feeling you shouldn’t not suffer when others are suffering. That I don’t deserve to have my little life problems and little life happinesses because of the atrocities happening in Ukraine, and indeed, in many countries around the world.
Yet, something as big as war seems so big and like I can do nothing. I cannot involve myself on the ground, I cannot sit Putin down and tell him to stop, I cannot negotiate or make decisions on sanctions or no-fly zones.
I can send money, I can send energy and love, I can accept rising gas prices. I can live my life in a way I think all people deserve to, with values that sustain a simple goal of leaving the world a little better than I found it.
I keep coming back to a mantra of advocacy: not every one can do every thing but everyone can do everything.
Maybe I can’t change the whole world to make it better than it is now, but I can improve my little corner of the world, my little sphere of influence and passion.
Maybe not cleaning up the whole house, but just the kitchen.
Maybe not cleaning the whole kitchen, but just the stove.
Just the front right burner.
Because I know there are others working on the rest of the house. I can help them when I’m done, or I can share my cleaner or my sponge for a while. I don’t have to clean the whole house. Someone else is cleaning the microwave, under the bed, the toilet, the top of the bookshelf. Someone else is watering the plants, making the bed, laundering the towels. Someone else is shining the windows until they sparkle and putting the last clean dish in the cupboard and running the vacuum.
I have no way of knowing if my little donations actually do anything, if my life does in fact make the world a little bit better. I will not have an It’s a Wonderful Life moment where I see what the world would look like without me. I hope I’m not trying to just make myself feel good about the little I can do, to the detriment of actually making a change.
What I do know, is that I can prioritize relationships and nature and health over money and things and power. I can understand how local elections affect very real aspects of my life and that of my neighbors. I can try to keep learning and listening and growing and check myself when I ever feel like I’m entitled to something, rather than closing myself off or assuming I’m right or that others are wrong.
There are no answers, there is no magic way to ensure any of us are making a difference. And yet. We are humans in relationship with each other, we are somehow connected and influenced by each other, and so each of our actions has an effect on someone. Let that effect be for the benefit of us all, together, not us all, apart.
Where I got my info about where to donate: https://chancellor.ucsf.edu/blog/supporting-people-ukraine