The Battle of Helping Others While Remaining Sane Yourself

I have always been someone who feels extremely sensitive to what others are feeling and going through. That is one trait that caused me to dive so far into human rights topics. For me, it stays with me all the time that people are suffering, being treated unequally, or going through some type of injustice that is just hard to make sense out of. It seems that many people involved in international affairs and politics in general are lead primarily by wanting to get to the top, that power, or just pure intelligence that sometimes lacks feeling. The more I care the more I want to learn, but the more I learn the more I care. The problem I have, is I can’t just learn and disconnect myself. Maybe I’ll read a book on child trafficking and become informed and filled with motivation and ideas for ways to solve it. I put down the book and then maybe I have plans to get drinks with friends and enjoy a night out. The problem is I can’t. I have no on and off switch. The topic stays on my mind as my brain constantly runs in circles thinking and rethinking of ways to possibly solve the problem, help these people, and just not getting past the fact that it’s happening right now. Right this second, as I enjoy my honey jack and coke (drink of choice, when I can afford it) and listen to conversations at the bar that seem pretty unnecessary to even spend energy on, right during every sip someone is suffering, feeling pain, and hurt.

It might be good that I feel this connection to people I don’t know, but I’ve also found it can be extremely inhibiting. It’s hard to find a focused problem to solve, which causes me to spread myself to thin and not effectively help anyone. I just don’t see any problem as more important than any other, but I know to make an impact I have to find a place to start. I also recently read a post on Tiny Buddha (one of my go to inspiration blogs) that hit right on after a weekend of no productivity because of overactive brain work.

It was a Friday evening in the midst of a four day weekend. I was excited for the long weekend to finally have a chance to process my thoughts from Ghana. My recent trip made the sensitivity to other people much more intense than those I read about, which is already very strong. Now that I had seen some characteristics of a developing country first hand, they were constantly on my mind. I recently wrote about the happiness and positivity that the country of Ghana contained. That is all very true. But it didn’t take away the extreme poverty, hunger, illness/death, and lack of running water or even electricity that remained. Knowing that Ghana is one of the stronger democracies in the developing world, it also put into perspective those countries that are even further behind on those issues along with more violent situations that Ghana sees less of. It made me remember what Nick Kristof said when I heard him speak in the spring. “Everyone in this room has won the lottery of life.” The majority of the world is suffering and lacking these luxuries we take for granted. The MAJORITY, meaning MOST of this world. People in first world countries like the United States who are even middle or in some cases low income citizens, they have still won the lottery of life compared to MOST of the people in this world.

So on this particular Friday night, as I wanted so badly to be productive in figuring out my life, I found myself stuck. My brain was moving so fast that it in fact was accomplishing nothing because all of my energy was burned out on negativity. Sadness for those I couldn’t reach. Anger to those in the U.S. and other countries who just didn’t realize how lucky they were and still have ridiculous luxuries while others don’t have the basic necessities to live.  I felt frustrated as I came back to the height of the upcoming election and seeing energy being wasted on attacking, conspiracy theories, and just stupid games rather than helping others which these people in power actually have the capability to do. I also felt uneasy with myself. The day I got back from Ghana I found out I had to move and switch apartments. This meant buying furniture and stressing out over the cost of beds. It seemed silly to me since entire countries just sleep wherever they land. These little things that we need, they don’t have at all, so what’s the point of having them? Why can some people live comfortable, when others suffer? Shouldn’t there be a way to just even it out? And how do some people just simply not care? I had a hard time going about my regular life, knowing that I had so much and feeling guilty, like if I were comfortable I should give to someone else so that the comfort can even out. It might sound crazy to some, but how can some things that don’t involve helping others matter so much with the insane things that are going on in this world? It just does not make sense, and I don’t see any excuse for people not to help or ESPECIALLY for corporations to use the extra energy and money to do the right things to make things better rather than worse.

This rant that just turned into a gigantic paragraph is literally what is going on in my head 24/7, all the time, always, never ending. I know they say that you can’t help others unless you help yourself. I never really liked that. I know I’m not perfect, but I know I am more fortunate so I should be able to help people who are far less fortunate than my current status. One thing that did make sense to me, however, is the fact that I still need to make myself happy. Because without positivity in my mind, the negativity takes over and causes me to accomplish nothing. Where as if I remain positive, I have more energy to learn and act and spread that attitude onto others. So that’s what I’m working on now. How can I make a large impact, but be in a mind set that is actually productive. Right now I’m finding interest in Corporate Social Responsbility (CSR) but we will see. This world would be so much easier to tackle if people would just do the right thing and put it some effort if and when they can. And the journey of trying to help people and create a better world continues. I know my feelings toward it, and I imagine I’m not alone, so I felt it was important to finally get some of these into writing. Not only for my own sanity, but for others to relate to as well.

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7 thoughts on “The Battle of Helping Others While Remaining Sane Yourself

  1. Hi Marybeth,

    I really liked and resonated with your post. I can understand how living in a developed country renders most of us somewhat unaware or immune to those living under much different and unfortunate circumstances.
    I agree that it can be overwhelming to see how many people and causes need help and attention and that it’s so difficult to wrap your head around what you can do to help, if anything.
    I think, though, that being AWARE of the fact that not everybody has a bed to sleep on or even water to drink is a step in realising there is something, however small, we can do in our own way and that in turn can bring awareness to others to take action too.

    Yaniv

    • Thanks Yaniv! I agree with you, and I’m sure many people have similar thoughts when they return from traveling. Especially with it being my first trip to see a developing country first-hand, it left me with a lot on my mind. But I hope to travel more in the future!

      MaryBeth

      • Where else to you think you’ll want to go travel to? and, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you hope to accomplish? To bringing awareness to less fortunate people and countries or to get people to act and volunteer in developing countries?

        Yaniv

      • That is a question I am still trying to figure out. I would love to go to more African countries, but I think my next venture might be to south east Asia. I’m really interested in interfaith/intercultural communication, corporate social responsibility, and using social media as a tool to help counter the media bias that misinforms people. I’ve also been active in promoting women/girls rights and education/empowerment. There are so many issues that are important, it’s hard to choose a focus. But that is my next goal, because if I spread myself too thin then I won’t accomplish anything! What are you involved with?

  2. Wow MaryBeth,
    I am reading this while sitting in my small room in accra, ghana; I am working with an eye care NGO. I can totally relate to all your mixed feelings on human suffering, why it happens, why we haven’t stopped it, and what we can do about it.I also understand when you say that these thoughts are with you ALL the time, I find it hard to enjoy many of the simple luxuries we have, especially after such trips. I have visited several other developing countries and worked in health care mainly. So, you are not alone! it was wonderful to read your writing.
    what helps me also, is thinking that no one person carries all the burden of human suffering (what i mean is that even though there are millions starving right now, but each of them are individuals, who are only carrying their own burden; when we think in big numbers-of millions hungry-the problem seems much more painful–but really its just a bigger problem, but the pain is relative–not sure if thats clear or helps at all?
    its important to be able to turn these feelings we have into action, and that happens through educating ourselves, developing mature views on these topics, and joining others who are doing good work. Use these feelings as fuel for your work. hopefully, we will achieve some equality some day… even if its a few lives that we are changing…

    all the best to you!

    marwa.

    • Hi Marwa,

      Your comment really brightened my day! How are you enjoying Ghana? Such a beautiful country with amazing people! How long are you there? Where else have you traveled and what are you hoping to accomplish/work in? I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do, and it makes it harder when I become overwhelmed with so many issues that all seem equally as important. But you are absolutely right, and these are things I have to remind myself of. I think for many people they become so overwhelmed that they end up doing nothing at all, and I certainly don’t want to turn into that. So for now I am learning and staying involved where I can in areas important to me and hoping that something really calls out to me to focus on soon. But I think educating myself right now is extremely important! What other things have you done in the past?

  3. Pingback: What Did I Do in 2012? « Global Thoughts

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