I cannot save the world by myself.
That should be a patently obvious statement, but I need to be reminded sometimes.
You see, over the last couple of months I’ve donated money to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Campaign Zero, and the American Civil Liberties Union. I’ve written a letter to the Attorney General of Kentucky. I’ve emailed, I’ve blogged, I’ve tweeted, I’ve posted, I’ve shared, I’ve commented, I’ve liked, and I’ve subscribed. I, as a millennial, have made telephone calls.
I did all of this for one simple reason. Because, as best summed up by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
I learned it from JFK, and from MLK, and from my mom and dad, and from my schoolteachers, and from Mister Rogers, and from It’s A Wonderful Life, and perhaps most of all, from The Lorax.
And so, I’m trying. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot save the world by myself.
I can beg and hope and wish and plead, I can scream into the void or directly into my congressman’s ear, and in the end, I’m still not going to be the one person who fixes everything.
The best that I can hope for is to be one of the people who helps to fix something. And that shouldn’t feel like a concession, but rather a goal to aspire to. I should feel good about the causes I’ve supported, the awareness that I’ve spread, and the movement that I’ve helped to grow. I should feel proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder (well, six feet away) with other like-minded individuals who want to make a positive difference in the world, and I should take comfort in the fact that we’re all fighting this fight together.
That’s how it should feel.
But that’s not how it does feel. Instead, it feels like I’m the one kid who can’t figure out their section of the group project. I feel like I can’t possibly be doing the right things, or if I am, then I’m certainly not doing enough.
But to be honest, I don’t know how much more I can do. I don’t know how much time I can volunteer or how many protests I can attend. I don’t know how much money I can continue to donate. I’m not even sure how much mental real estate I can continue to give to social issues before it really does drive me crazy.
People, I’m tired. In my mind, my body, and especially in my soul, I am tired. But I don’t feel like I can stop to rest, because I still don’t feel like I’m doing my fair share of the work.
I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I’ve done my fair share of the work. Even if I were to singlehandedly punch Systemic Racism into the sun like some kind of Black Superman, I know I’d still be kicking myself for not figuring out how to do it sooner.
I ask myself, “How many times do you have to roll the same boulder up the same hill before you stop thinking that maybe you just aren’t pushing hard enough? Before you realize that this boulder is bigger than you are, and that’s all there is to it?”
And I answer, “But what if I’m the Chosen One? What if I did have the power inside of me all along, and I’m just not using it right?”
And that’s when I need the reminder, yet again: I cannot save the world by myself.
The only thing that I can do is my best.
And that has to be enough, because that’s all there is. I can’t keep striving for more than that, because doing more than that is quite literally impossible. I can’t keep burdening myself with this stupid idea that I personally need to be the savior of the world, or else I only tried my pretty-hardest. I can’t work so hard trying to help so much that I burn myself out, and end up not being able to help at all.
So, I will stop trying to be Black Superman. But I will continue to donate, write letters, email, blog, tweet, post, share, comment, like, subscribe, protest, volunteer, and, if I must, make even more phone calls.
I cannot make all the difference. But- and this is what I’m sure JFK actually meant- I can still make a difference.
I cannot, and will not, save the world by myself.
But I can, and I will, help to save the world.