If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, did it happen?
I write blog posts every day for clients to help increase their sales. I love this work, and I know it makes a difference. But while we can measure clicks and sales to get a good picture of the effectiveness of my blog posts, we never know the full impact of my work. Sometimes, a blog post or social media post will be read by someone who does nothing about it now. But they might remember my client in the future and return to learn more. There’s simply no way to track those behaviors.
It’s kind of like the old question about the tree in the forest. If someone reads a blog post, but I’m not there to see the inner workings of their mind, did it even make a difference?
Do I Make a Difference?
This here blog is different than what I do for my clients. Thrilled by the Thought is ME, and since it’s so tied to my life, I sometimes struggle to find topics in which I have the current ability to write. While I can write on any subject for a client, I can’t seem to separate big feelings and problems in my life from this blog. When the world is falling apart, when children in South Sudan are starving to death, when children in Syria are being bombed or gassed… well, at these times, my fingers freeze.
How can I write about the silly things my kids are doing when someone else’s kids are being laid to rest because of a war or a famine in which they don’t belong?
Of course, since horrors are always happening, one could argue that I would never be able to write.
But I have a coping mechanism. And so do you.
I’m often distracted by the other things going on in my life. If life is really hard, I’m easily distracted by my struggles. When life isn’t as difficult, I’m still distracted by the smaller problems:
- The unfair $70 Xfinity charge we weren’t told was coming
- The piano recital for which my daughter needs to prepare
- The summer clothes that need to be bought for my children
These things occupy my mind, and I carry on in my own world and find things to write about.
And there’s nothing truly wrong with that, is there? We must live our own lives, and we must find happiness and joy within them.
And our problems are real problems; real frustrations — even if they aren’t life-and-death problems.
But sometimes, I use these problems as a coping mechanism to let me be distracted. Sometimes, I don’t need to be so concerned with these issues. Sometimes I choose to place my focus on something that’s less painful — and more fixable — than horrors halfway across the world.
And that’s what I’ve been doing lately.
A Helpless Feeling
I’ve seen the images of Syria and South Sudan.
And I’ve scrolled past them.
I’ve buried myself in fighting the unfair internet charges and worrying about my daughter’s piano preparation. These issues in my life are necessary to handle, but I know myself — and I’ve been letting these things consume me so I don’t have to think about Syria or South Sudan.
And so I write nothing. Since I’m avoiding the biggest issue in my mind, it seems wrong to write about anything else.
And how can I face the issue? What can I do, anyway?
It feels helpless.
A Difference Made
As the images of starving children in South Sudan began popping up on my Facebook feed, I became consumed with a tree on a walking trail near my home.
This tree had split, and the larger portion wasn’t even in the ground anymore. It was only still standing because it was leaning against a group of other trees. I don’t know much about trees, but I knew it was a danger. As I walked by the tree every day, I would think, “Somebody needs to fix that.”
Finally, I kept that thought in my head all the way until I got home, and I sat down to email the City about the tree and its general location.
I received no response, and the tree remained.
A week or two later, I took a picture of the tree, counted my paces from the tree to a nearby landmark, and sent the picture and the more accurate description of its location to the City again.
Again, I received no response.
But the very next day, the tree was cut down with its logs stacked in neat piles.
I was elated that I had been listened to — and that someone had taken action.
My words made a difference, and led to the removal of a danger.
Satisfied I had won a good fight (even if nobody ever responded to me personally, ahem), I turned and walked home.
A Lost Chance to Make a Difference
Not far from the now-downed tree, I winced when I noticed two bones — deer bones.
How do I know they were deer bones? Because last year, a deer was hit and killed by a train, and its body remained by the tracks for months. I regularly walked past the poor creature as its body deteriorated and thought, “Someone should do something about that.”
But I regularly forgot to find the person to call.
I regularly forgot to take action.
Over time, the deer’s body rotted and was picked apart by scavengers.
And now, all that remains are a couple bones.
I should have done something.
And the countless people who also regularly walk the path should have done something.
But none of us did a thing.
A life was lost. Its body rotted and was carried away while we observed and went on with our daily lives.
The juxtaposition of my tree win with my deer failure was so impactful to me.
In the one situation, I took action and a problem was resolved. In the other, I ignored the situation and a magnificent life was dishonored. Right there, on the side of the train tracks.
Syria and South Sudan
I can’t help but see the comparison of the deer to Syria and South Sudan. Literal lives are being lost and dishonored while we observe.
What can I do about these situations?
Well, I can keep ignoring them and think, “Someone needs to fix that problem.”
And a lot of someones are working on these problems, thankfully. But are enough someones involved?
Shouldn’t I be one of those someones? I can do something.
Use my words.
You know, the City never told me they were listening to me about the tree. But they did listen. And they did take care of the problem.
The tree was cut down on the path, and I wasn’t there to hear it. But it did come down.
As I sit at my dining room table and type away on my computer, I may never know if these words will be the thing that motivate someone who’s been thinking of helping. But I think you’ll listen. And I think you’ll take the step you’ve been meaning to take.
At the very least, I know I am now motivated to take the next step I’ve been meaning to take. In fact, just yesterday I mustered up the courage to call my congresswoman (well, her office) and let her know what I want to see America doing in regards to Syria.
It wasn’t hard.
I think I’ll do it again.
With our words and our dollars, we can make impacts.
The children of Syria and South Sudan are falling. We aren’t there to see it, but they are coming down whether we acknowledge them or not.
And we can each do something.