If I Don’t Care, Then, Who Will? by Karen Leslie Hernandez


What are we going to do with this world that’s on fire right now?

I continually ask myself what my role is on this beautiful blue planet – what am I supposed to really do? What am I going to do? What have I done?

I never wallow in my past, but, gosh-darnit, I’m a survivor. Things I suffered in my early years, intermingled with what happened to me in the many years since, have, at times, won. They’ve drowned me, torn me, thrown me, and found me in the fetal position. Yet, here I am. A high school drop-out getting my Doctor of Ministry. A survivor of abuse standing strong as a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. A suicide attempt survivor with an incredible zest for life. I share all this not to brag, but, to remind myself mostly – I am still here. By God’s grace, I am still standing.

Without boring you with too many details, this last year was probably one of the most difficult I have encountered. Ever. Yet, hello! I am here to continue my rage against the machine – remaining at peace with my mouthy, rebellious, sassy self. And, yes, mindful of all that was, is, and will be.

We tend to always wonder what could have been, what can be, what is, what will be. We rarely acknowledge the moment we’re in. We rarely are mindful of Now. I have worked a lot on being mindful of Now, especially this last year. I said to a mentor several months ago, “Does it ever get any easier?” His response? “You’re not seeing what’s right in front of you. You are living it. You ARE getting through it. This is it. You need to recognize that. You are doing the hard work. You’re in it.” Wisdom.

Let’s get real. Life, at times, is hard, a struggle, trying, even debilitating. Not only do we all suffer and have our own personal struggles, but those are compounded with events such as Christchurch, Parkland survivor suicides, racism, Newtown suicides, fires, homelessness, floods, addiction, disease, cyclones, the refugee plight, wars, political unrest and corruption – it sometimes feels as if the world is literally imploding on itself and on us.

But then I am reminded of all the Helpers. Reverend Fred Rogers’ Mother, thank goodness, passed on that little gem of a phrase, “Look for the Helpers.” I am always stunned at how one person such as the Christchurch shooter can make such an impact in our world. Yet, the thousands of Helpers since the shooting, have mostly flown under the radar. They’re just doing their work – grounded in their vocation, empowered by goodness, practicing compassion, giving endless love, and fighting violence with empathy. As we all should be.

I keep wondering if this is an enlightenment period. Perhaps we need to go through all of this, to get to the other side. Perhaps this violence and unrest that is enveloping us, is our only way as humans to understand, to see, to listen, and all of it will, eventually, move us beyond this frightful stage to something much better. If this is so, great! But goodness, it is painful, is it not?

I wonder if God is as tired as we are. I wonder if there is a God. Perhaps She has abandoned us to our own devices and that’s why we are so messed up. I wonder if He has no more empathy for us. I wonder if God feels anything anymore. I wonder if She is angry at us. I wonder if He wishes He could take it all back and start over again. I wonder what conversations God must have with Herself about the state of humanity and the world we are destroying. I wonder why He lets us continue to thrive. I wonder if God just can’t anymore.

Sometimes it is all so breathtakingly, soul crushing, isn’t it? Not only do we have to deal with our own stuff, we have to deal with all the other stuff too. How are we to move through the world this way? How are we to simply not crumble into a ball as we encounter these life-altering events every single day? Yet, this is where I find hope in us. Because humans, in all our stuff, are so incredibly resilient. Perhaps this is where God is present – in our ability to remain human. I live this, because I know this.

I close asking, how do we stay mindful, compassionate, empathetic, and not hate everyone and everything? Because it sure ain’t easy. More, why is that important? Why should we be compassionate, empathetic and mindful in a world that feels as if those traits don’t matter? It’s important because even though our voices are muted much of the time, we are called names and labeled, and we feel (as I do much of the time), out of place like the salmon swimming upstream – we simply must keep going and doing what’s right. Because if we give in, if we let the “bad guys” win, if we choose to be lackadaisical, if we aren’t mindful, if we lack compassion, if we don’t try to understand, if we don’t love ourselves so we can love others, if we step away from justice, and if we won’t stand up and scream, “NO!” – then we all lose. And I admit it, I don’t like losing.

I posit this one last question, that, when we look in the mirror every morning, we should ask ourselves: If I don’t care, then, who will?

 

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to have published an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. Some of her past gigs include designing and teaching an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, as well as spending three years working with United Religions Initiative, in several different positions. As an Over-Achiever, Karen has not one, but two theological master’s degrees – one from Andover Newton Theological School, the other from Boston University School of Theology. She did her BA at Wellesley College, graduating with honors in her major, Peace and Justice Studies, where she wrote her thesis on Al Qaeda and how they misuse religion for political gain. Karen currently lives in California, works at two faith based non-profits, teaches workshops throughout the Bay Area, is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a certified domestic violence advocate.

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Categories: Activism, Belief, Faith, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, God

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9 replies

  1. Karen, I feel your pain in the struggle we share.

    What if Goddess is with us and inspiring us but is not omnipotent, and thus does not have the power to make all things right. Then She must not be happy with the state of the world, but She continues to speak in our hearts, inspiring us to try to make the world a better place for all, with no guarantee of the outcome.

    Personally, I find the question: “If I don’t care, who will” to be based on a false premise. If I don’t care, there are still millions of people who do. We are not alone. And some days I may choose to rest or to care for myself, trusting that I others are doing what I did yesterday and will do tomorrow.

    No we have not created a more loving and just world as we hope. But whoever told us that we could? We can only do that if enough of us join together. For me the key is not to focus on the big picture or final outcome, but on the small changes we can make, knowing that it is right to do what we can even if there is no “promised land” at the end of the journey. In other words to accept finitude and death.

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  2. It’s such an enlightening post. I have always felt I struggled too much or why life has been so tough for me but reading this makes me realise we all are fighting our own little battle. Cheers!

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  3. I don’t think of god caring or not caring because I don’t believe in god but I do believe in the ways of Nature – and I see evidence all the time that S/he is trying to make things right, All I can do is focus on what is, and in the smallest ways try to do the same. That, and not give in to hopelessness – I think it’s positively overwhelming to be alive during this time.

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  4. I used to watch the Sunday talk shows (ABC, NBC, MSNBC) about current events and people in the news from about 8 a.m. until after lunch. A few months ago, I started turning the TV off about 11 a.m. and going in to take a shower. Washing the news off? Last Sunday, I turned the TV off at 9:45 and took my shower. I washed my hair especially thoroughly. I suspect that will be my pattern now for a long time. (Well, maybe 10 a.m.?) I have volunteered, I always vote…….and, like you, I wonder, did I help make this world?

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I’ll have something to think about all day.

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  5. The Pacific salmon swimming upstream are not “out of place”. They are “going home” to lay eggs and create new life, and die. In their struggle upstream, some become food for people, bears, eagles and forests. I go to the river and cheer them on, gaining strength from their example.
    Only dead salmon float downstream. You are alive, dynamic, loving. You/we, are laying the eggs or fertilizing them, for new life. Be brave! Be like the salmon!

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  6. I feel you sister!
    We are definitely in a unique time in our young years as a nation. Technology has brought everything that is happening, good and bad, here and all around the world right into our every day and for some into every waking moment. How could it not all be overwhelming?
    Sounds like you have the “action” part down and thank you for all that you are doing/have done. I can relate. I recently joined the team of “Retirees” and working with my own “now what?” Wondering how can I continue to be “useful now” feelings after many years of social justice work and ministry. I now see how unbalanced I was for many many years of my “working years”. As they say, “hindsight is 20/20”.
    So instead of trying to rush the process of “how will I be useful now” and feelings like I need to hurry up and figure out where I can volunteer…I’m thinking I need to balance out all the things that you mention in your post with contemplation. Contemplation AND action. We certainly have access to lots that can overwhelm us, but we also have access to God, nature, Higher Powers etc. For me, Jesus, who was manifested in a male body but emulated so many feminine qualities like tenderness, healing touch, gentleness and kindness and took time apart for Contemplation has much to teach us as do other individuals like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nanh Ha, MLK, Maya Angelou, and many others.
    If only love will last, and this is what I do believe, then I choose to spend time loving myself by spending time in quiet, doing what gives me joy, and by sending out love to those I’d rather hate like the President and all that he represents, racists, rapists, abusers, murderers, etc.
    For now, I can only do this in contemplation. In time, I may re-enter “the Action” in a volunteering capacity” but for now I will hold you in loving thoughts and send you love because I am certain that ONLY love will last, everything else will be gone and pass away. Only love, love alone, only love will last. I know it’s not always easy to get this in as a “working woman” but I wish you time for self love and nourishment, and for some quiet contemplation as you continue your work and living. Peace to you.

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  7. Thanks, Karen, and yes, so good this, where your mentor says — “You are doing the hard work. You’re in it.” Wisdom.

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  8. Thank you, Karen. I like the last entire comment by Rogers (thanks for sharing that link): “Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” As someone whose disenchantment and abuse in my early twenties led me to pretty intense misanthropy (that continues to rear its head regularly), witnessing the helpers in all areas of need is indeed inspiring. And, as was pointed out to me in hospice training, there is a difference between helping and rescuing – we need to be careful in how to express our compassion because it’s easy for the Ego to take over, subsuming the Heart.

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  9. An extremely moving post that truly made me connect with your struggle and think about humanities future…thank you for your read

    Liked by 1 person

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