Friday, May 17, 2013

Climb mountain with tiny steps (and a list)

From today's Briefing:

Every May, it’s the same old story.
Events stack up, crowding our calendar. There are double, sometimes triple bookings for meetings, parties, rehearsals, recitals.
Some of those require advance work — like the two receptions I’m helping with this week. It’s not difficult to gather tablecloths and pretty napkins, flowers and cookies, but it’s time consuming on top of everything else going on.
Some require help from others — like Friday, when Katie is attending the elementary school sock hop and Cooper is playing in the middle school band concert. They both begin at 6:30 p.m. Katie will be dancing the night away under supervision of a dear friend while I’m sitting in an auditorium to listen to “A Freaky Fantasy” and other catchy tunes.
I was feeling particularly overwhelmed Monday morning. I should have been focused on a complex work project, but my mind couldn’t let go of the mountain of tasks waiting for me after hours.
I took a short break and made a giant master list of the week ahead, organized by category, with bullet points under each heading.
No task was too small for the list. After the entire page was filled with action items, I no longer felt overwhelmed. I was relieved to see tiny attainable steps leading to bigger goals.
It’s the same with the world’s woes. And it happens year-round. I’m easily overwhelmed by poverty, injustice, hunger, disease.
When I’m overwhelmed, paralysis creeps in. I can’t possibly solve all the world’s problems. Or even one of them. From there, I’m one small backward step from “Why bother?”
But one small forward step leads to hope. And to get there, I make a list, then attack that list one task at a time.
This year, Cooper, Katie and I have set aside a small amount of money from our monthly budget to donate to nonprofits that are meaningful to us. Every few weeks, we talk about people who need help. I do a little research. Then we vote on where to send our money.
Our priorities have been focused on health care, education and nutrition. We pay special attention to children — no doubt because two of the three members of the bloc are children.
We’ve supported the North Texas Food Bank and Frisco Family Services because we want hungry people to have access to healthy food.
We’ve sent money to Children’s Medical Center Dallas because Steve, my late husband and Cooper and Katie’s daddy, worked there for the final nine years of his life. He was passionate about quality health care for children — all children, regardless of how much money their parents earned.
We’ve donated to Faith Presbyterian Hospice, the folks who helped care for Steve in his final weeks, because we know how important it is for loved ones to say goodbye with peace and dignity.
We’ve given a little money to a classroom in Little Elm, so that first-graders would have books to read.
Our modest gifts won’t end world hunger or cure diseases or solve illiteracy troubles. But we’re taking tiny steps toward hope. We’ve got faith that people all around us are taking similar steps and that a few are making huge leaps. We’ve got faith that others are doing more than donating money — they’re devoting time and talents to solve some overwhelming problems.
It’s easy to complain this time of year about too much going on, not enough time to fit it all in. I suspect I’ll always grumble a little in May. At the same time, my family sure is fortunate to be overwhelmed by celebrations. To be healthy and well fed. To lack for nothing we truly need.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

No comments: