Choosing Your Battles

Sometime during my life path, when I was working as a full-time professional, active as a community volunteer, and raising three children, I had to admit that I couldn’t do everything. Even if I could do anything (not true: I can’t draw, keep time, or play any known sport), I had to make choices. Over the decades, I have acquired extensive volunteer organization leadership skills and experience. At the same time, my faith community and other organizations, like the League of Women Voters, keep vesting me with leadership roles, where I am supposed to look after everything.  How do I manage to have a life, focus more narrowly on doing a few things well,  and be effective?

My passion is for social justice in all forms, but my skills and expertise lie in economic justice. I My focus on economic justice doesn’t mean I don’t care about racial justice or justice for LBGTQ or climate justice or legal justice or any of the other challenges humans have devised that do or do not treat others as they deserve.  My answer is to draw a line between wholesale and retail, to use leadership skills for the wholesale side and my more specialized economic skills for the retail part.  As social action chair in my congregation, I draw on the League and other resources to stay alert for action opportunities on pending legislation or other events where people might want to express their opinions. I share them with the individuals who have passion, or expertise, or both in those areas.  I know which people to whom I should send information about climate change, discrimination, reproductive choice, and lots of other issues.  But I don’t respond to these calls for action directly (I do often send money) because I want to reserve my voice for where it is most likely to be heard, and that’s economic justice. I want to frame my arguments carefully so that those whose political perspective is different from my own might nevertheless be persuaded that there is something of value in what I have to say. And those whose perspective is closer to my own are more likely to use my points, arguments, suggestions. In that way, I have from time to time been able to influence legislation and even once in a great while, court decisions in my adopted very red state..

Most of you, I know, have particular causes or issues that are dear to your heart.  If you can focus on just a few and develop some expertise so that your head will support your heart, that’s great.  Maybe that focus is related to your work or career, like librarians fighting book banning, health care professionals having a say on women’s reproductive choice, teachers resisting politically motivated censorship of teaching actual history or encouraging critical thinking. A good friend of mine is a computer scientist who has dedicated herself to ensuring the safety and accountability of voting equipment, and her work has made a difference.  My nutritionist friend uses her skills to teach people to eat in more healthful ways and also to address world hunger.Or maybe that niche is defined by an avocation. A neighbor of mine is a quilter. She uses that skill to work with and promote the work of a worldwide organization that makes colorful kits of menstrual hygiene supplies for adolescent girls, so they don’t have to miss school and drop out. My animal loving friend devotes a lot of time and attention to finding good hoes for abandoned or unwanted animals.

Everyone has a skill, a passion, some specialized knowledge that they can use not only for their own satisfaction and that of family and friends, but also to make a difference in the world.  What’s your skill? What’s your passion? How can you join the two in a marriage that will give you joy and satisfaction and make the world a better place?