From time to time, I’ve pondered some version of the following questions: If climate change is caused mostly by industrial-scale carbon burning, what difference does it make if I observe meatless Mondays? If I turn down the thermostat in winter? If I avoid plastic when I can? Or, if an average American has a near-zero statistically significant impact on public policy, why make the effort to contact influencers and policymakers?
But these are the wrong questions. They suggest an absence of trust—of faith, even. And they suggest that maybe I have not made space for the holy, for love, in my calculations.
Here are the questions worth asking: “What’s my motivation for this action? Is my action grounded in love?” And in this season of the church year, to ask once again, in the words of Martin Smith, “Where do I stand at the beginning of another Lent?
All I have to do is look out the window to know the answer: I stand in love and awe for this wonderful creation, and for the people and other creatures who populate it. And taking some sort of action seems like my only possible response to love.
Yes, these efforts can feel futile, so I keep a quotation from Vincent Pizzuto* close by. In part, he says, “How many of us are tempted to be the whole solution rather than accept the powerlessness of being but a small part of something much greater than oneself?”
I am a child of God! My actions matter. They allow “divine love to manifest in some new or profound dimension,” says Cynthia Bourgeault.** I don’t need to be a scorekeeper or a judge, just a loved daughter who brings what she has to offer. And the wonderful thing is that it’s not just me, it’s millions of us, just doing whatever is ours to do.
For a long time, I was not in a position to take any action much beyond my very small family. I regretted that at the time. But in 2014, I attended the Smithsonian exhibit “Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000, where I came upon an exhibit, “Food Activism.” And there, inside that case, I saw myself! There were my little yellow Salton yogurt maker and some of my old cookbooks: *Diet for a Small Planet*, *The Tassajara Bread Book*, and *Moosewood*. It’s a funny thing to see yourself in a museum case! I went home amused but enlightened: the fact is, there were so many of us, each in our own kitchens, that our actions really did change the American table.
It doesn’t take everybody to get on board. It takes only somewhere between 3 three 10%*** of a population to move the needle on any given issue. Working for justice, in whatever sphere, will always be fringe work and will likely never be popular work. We may experience decades of what feels like failure. Still, we can be ever on a path of walking faithfully.
Stay tuned for more updates from our Creation Care ministry and ways you can join us in being stewards of God’s creation.
Ellen Thompson, Creation Care Committee
*Vincent Pizzuto, Contemplating Christ, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018), 102, 130
**Cynthia Bourgeault, Wisdom Jesus, (Boulder, Shambhala Publications, 2008), 73
***On “moving the needle” – Multiple sources. See, for ex., “The 3.5% rule: How a Small Minority Can Change the World, by David Robson, May 13, 2019 in BBC Future (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190513-it-only-takes-35-of-people-to-change-the-world)