For All the People Who Care Too Much

 Photo by Mary Curran Hackett

Photo by Mary Curran Hackett

This if for the feelers.

This is for the those who see things going on around the world, and hurt.

Don't stop.

Don't be silent.

Exercise your rights to speak, to care, to be.

This is for everyone, who, even though their lives aren’t personally affected by policies, tragic circumstances, and laws, care anyway.

I know how you feel, folks. And I am here to let you now: keeping caring. Keep fighting. The world needs you. I need you. Because, sometimes, it takes a lot of energy to care an awful lot.

Last night I was upset, especially so after a long few days of rotten news (both personal and in the world) and an uexpected run-in with a Nazi (yes, a bonafide Swastika-wearing Nazi). I felt sick all day after seeing hate that close up.  My heart literally hurt from beating so hard—out of fear, out of panic, out of outrage.  Standing at a gas pump, in the middle of the afternoon in suburban Ohio, I felt afraid not just for me, but for my country.

After I shared my frustration and heartache, someone said to me: "Now Mary, really, how does any of this affect your life today?"

He may have been well-meaning. He may have wanted to point out the obvious. Mary, you have no control over anything. And, yes, in many ways, he was right. My life, today, remains relatively wonderful despite whatever else is going on in the world.

But, here’s what “How does any of this affect your life today” sounds like to a person who is concerned about the world and its people in it. Who cares? Get over it. Nothing's changed in your life. Just ignore all that's going. It doesn't affect people "like us." 

When I heard this, I teared up. I told him I wasn't "going to do this" and I handed the phone to my husband and walked away.

What I wasn't going to do was tell him why I cared so much. Why everything affects me...because it affects my children, and children around the world. I wasn't going to tell him how, that even if it doesn't affect me personally, I still have a right to be upset. I still have a right to care. Because even if I don't need it right now, someone, somewhere needs support, love, acceptance, a warm bed, a sense of security, a sense that their needs will be taken care of. Someone right now is being discriminated against. Someone right now is being separated from a loved one. Someone right now is scared to tell their mom and dad they are gay. Somewhere right now someone is pregnant, scared and alone, like I was seventeen years ago. Someone right now has to choose between feeding their kids and paying a mortgage. Someone right now isn't going to their doctor appointments because they're just too damned expensive, and they'd rather spend the money on their kids and their kids’ needs. Someone right now is so consumed by their own personal heartache and tragedy, they don't have the time or energy to fight, so someone else must do it for them.

I wanted to tell him how every day my life is affected by someone else’s politics, ideologies, and opinions. That all of our lives are. I wanted to say thank God someone cared enough long ago and said "enough with this insanity…I may not be a slave and my life's not ‘personally affected by it,’ but I'll be damned to sit by and watch." Or how about those men and women who didn't have kids of their own dying in factories, but cared a hell of a lot to form unions and fight those who didn't care how long kids worked (or died) on their factory line. Or how about those soldiers of ours, huh? The ones who were playing basketball in their backyards just a few years ago, not a care in the world, but who now stand at the ready to go wherever and whenever our politicians demand it. Thank God they care now.

Isn't the least I can do in this troubled world is care? Isn't the least I can do is stand up and say: "This hurts me too, even though my life doesn’t change one bit." Isn't the least I can do is reach out and say, "I understand, I care, and I am hurting too"?

So yes, he was right. Most of us live pretty privileged lives. We sleep in warm beds. We have jobs. We have families that love us, and the lucky among us even have families that understand us. But, some of us, some of us who are closer than you think, some of us who are in your own family, your own neighborhood, your own town, your own city, your own state, your own country, your own world don't feel so carefree, don't feel so safe, don't feel so secure, don't feel like they have anyone they can count on, trust, or open up to. I can't make you care, but all I can say is this: I care a hell of a lot. And I won't stop. And if someone out there feels alone, feels sad, feels like the world is going to pieces, I feel you. Lots of us do.

If you do feel hopeless, sad, overwhelmed, tell someone. It’s okay if you do. And as another friend told me yesterday, it's okay to take a break from caring. It's okay to let someone else do it for a little while so you can build up strength and get back to it. It's our only, last, and best hope at a better world.

Shine on.