Tired of caring.

“Sorry, not today.”

That's what I say to the big guy sitting in a lawn chair in front of Walmart with an American flag and a 52oz soda who is trying to get me to stop and sign something on his clipboard. He wants me to know it's very important and it will only take a minute of my time.

But I keep walking. I don't even make eye contact.

I have no idea what his cause is. I sincerely have no clue why he is sweating through his Nascar button up at 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon with some kind of petition in his hand. If I'm leaving Walmart, I assume it has something to do with gun-rights. Target? Voter registration. Trader Joe's? Environmental protection. Taco Bell? Legalizing weed. PetSmart? Euthanasia. Walgreens?...Euthanasia.

Anyway. I honesty don't know and I really don't care.

I've got enough crap to care about on my plate. I'm already aware of too many things to fret over and feel sad for and want to change. On the internet there's a new calamity every day. I can't open my laptop without seeing that I should be enraged about something; immigration, pollution, privilege, persecution, child abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, wars in other countries, wars “in our own back yard”, the war against poverty, the war on crime, the war on terror. There is a war against obesity, but, also, a war against body shaming. And when there's not a war, there's a battle! Because we're battling depression, malnutrition, gentrification, slavery, racism, agism, ableism, alcoholism....astigmatism.?... Basically, like, all the isms. And all the addictions. Plus, the economy is a real pain in the ass.

Issues! There are just so many issues, and they are all so big and so important and many of them are completely legitimate.

We've all met this guy and his clipboard. 
That's why I feel bad when someone lunges at me with their clipboard-for-a-cause on my way out to the car, and I kind of, sort of - we're talking ever so slightly - want to take it and fling it across the parking lot like a frisbee. And ,*ahem*, I might consider stabbing them with their clicky pen, too. It's so bad, I know, because I totally get that they're sold out for their cause. I know they want to tell me about something that means something to them. I know they are, in their own way, trying to change the world for the better.

Generally, I applaud that kind of behavior. But I am just so tired of... caring.

I'm tired of caring.

My compassion plate is full. It's overflowing.

I just can't care about all of the brokenness happening around us. There's so much going on, it's overwhelming. It's confusing. It's paralyzing.

The truth is, I've grown so skeptical, so wary of scandal, so observant, and so critical that even when I do start to care about something, I hesitate to get involved. I'm afraid to say the wrong thing, to contribute to the wrong people, I worry that my money will be misappropriated, and I'm fearful of causing harm in an effort to do good. As far as I'm concerned, gone are the days of flippantly signing petitions outside of grocery stores. Sorry, pal, I like your camo hat and your fishing lure vest, but I've gotta do my homework before you get my autograph. *flings clipboard* *eyes pen*.

Caring has become exhausting. With a never ending stream of fundraisers, awareness campaigns, blogger trips, micro loans, monthly sponsorship programs, sustainable businesses, and compassionate clothing in our news feeds, it can be hard to decide where to even start. It's so much easier to just kind of ignore the issues when they aren't right in our faces and go about our daily lives, but, as a culture, we are more engaged in the activities of the world than we have ever been. We are more aware, more informed, and more interested in seeing justice and equality happen on a global scale than ever. But I fear that, as a whole, we are growing tired. I think this constant inundation of giant problems and perceived solutions is leading us into a state of compassion fatigue.

Sadly, it seems like we're becoming desensitized to the relentless, overwhelming needs of our world.

We're getting tired of caring.

….. ….. …...

The first time I met Matt Parker, CEO of The Exodus Road, I told him “I'm not a cause kind of girl.” I wanted him to understand that I would be happy to come and see what they were doing in SE Asia to end trafficking and slavery, and if it was good stuff, I'd be happy to write about it on my blog, but he should know I was not going to take up his cause. I was not going to turn into some crazy abolitionist freak who wears “rescue” t-shirts and awkwardly brings up sex-slavery in the checkout line at Whole Foods. By this time, I'd seen lots of non-profits and lots of good work, and I'd happily passed their info along, but I never felt the need to become anyone's champion and I wasn't about to start. I think I wanted him to know that I cared, but like, not that much.

I was in the throws of compassion fatigue.

From last year, Matt Parker and El Chupacabra
talking about important things that matter.
I had only been off the mission field for a year, and I'd spent that year struggling to reconcile the ease of my life in the American suburbs with the poverty and injustice I had become familiar with overseas. So I came into meetings with non-profits, looking for partnership, with a really stupid disclaimer that was like: I'm sure your work is awesome, but your cause cannot be my cause because I don't only care about one thing... I care about a lot of things... a little.

Matt graciously accepted my douchey words of non-commitment and went about the business of teaching me everything he could about The Exodus Road coalition. Over the course of our week together, he kept emphasizing the words “core competency”. In the context of The Exodus Road, this refers to how each member/organization of the coalition specializes in just one area of work. So an aftercare facility doesn't do search and rescue, and a prevention org isn't moonlighting in rehab. Each organization is free to do what they do best – their core competency – and by doing so, they've created a network of skilled, equipped, and prepared workers in the anti-slavery movement. They each care passionately and expertly about only one aspect of the work, but they also work together, streamlining the process and sharing information, with the same end goal. Freedom.

The concept of “core competency” stuck with me.

On the long flight home, I kept thinking about how brilliant that is, and how with so many problems in the world, if we could all just care really deeply about one big thing, but partner in helpful ways with the people who care deeply about the other big things, we could make this a better place to live.

So I gave myself permission to stop caring a little bit about everything I saw and I spent some time figuring out what I felt most passionate about and how I could focus my energy into that one thing and, hopefully, use it to make a difference. I decided to be a girl with a cause.

I'm telling you all of this because.... well... I think you might be tired.

I think you might be sick and tired of hearing about sex-trafficking, or poverty, or malaria deaths, or whatever, and I want you to know that I get it. I totally get it. And I promise not to think you're a dick for wanting to roll your eyes because, OMG, another chick with a cause is mucking up your Facebook feed.

And I'm telling you all of this because... well... if you don't already have a cause, like, if you're not already participating in being the solution to just one of the world's problems, then I want to invite you to make my cause your cause.

Next week, I'm going to share stories from my latest trip, and then I'm going to tell you about ways that you can partner with The Exodus Road, and me, to focus on one cause in one place, and to change the world for the victims of sex-trafficking.

But I'm writing and posting this first, because I want to joyfully release you to love your one thing, ...even if it's not my thing.

Once I felt free to pick my one thing, the apathy I'd begun to feel for all the other things disappeared. What I found was that one cause leads to another. I have a passion for Search and Rescue, but becoming an active participant in the rescue of victims has led me to consider the next precarious steps of those who are entering freedom and how I can consciously participate in their success by using my buying power and my politics on their behalf. It's all connected. We're all connected. So do your thang to make the world better, whatever it may be.

But, seriously. DO SOMETHING.

Do your homework, sign your name, give your money, volunteer your time. Find a cause and fall in love, and give yourself away to it. Don't let compassion fatigue turn you into a Starbucks swilling zombie who only reads People.com "because everything else is just too depressing". 

Do something for someone else.

And come back next week to find out what I'm doing and how you can do it to. 

.....         .....         .....

What's your thing? Whose world are you changing? (Humble bragging is allowed for once!)