Wednesday, September 02, 2009


If you don't read Seth Godin's blog, you should. Here is today's post:

Enormity doesn't mean really enormous. It means incredibly horrible.

The problem with enormity in marketing is that it doesn't work. Enormity should pull at our heartstrings, but it usually shuts us down.

Show us too many sick kids, unfair imprisonments or burned bodies and you won't get a bigger donation, you'll just get averted eyes.

If you've got a small, fixable problem, people will rush to help, because people like to be on the winning side, take credit and do something that worked. If you've got a generational problem, something that is going to take herculean effort and even then probably won't pan out, we're going to move on in search of something smaller.

Not fair, but true.
Agreed. Not fair. Yet very true.

But the problem, for me, is that we see the issues that need the herculean effort. And really, when looking at "problems" from the church perspective, what can we possibly look at that doesn't look HUGE?!

How can we address these generational problems, that really do require herculean effort, in a way that doesn't drive people away? That doesn't make them shake their heads and say, "no...that's just too big."

We have to find ways to shrink the problems. Not downplay their significance, not downplay their pervasive enormity, but to shrink them down into manageable chunks. How can we look at global giants such as poverty, illiteracy, spiritual emptiness, and disease and not get intimidated? How do we view these pervasive problems and not become discouraged, disenfranchised and disgruntled with our small small bit of good that we can contribute?

Instead of "eliminating global illiteracy," would it not be better to get small groups of people to donate old books? To participate in small term, part-time mentoring programs? To create small scale literacy fairs?

Or with poverty, isn't it better to do what we can instead of doing nothing at all do to the enormity of the issue? Should we hang our heads in despair about the 1 in 8 people that "go hungry" in our own state each day? Should we mourn the unfair situation of the thousands dying by the hour in underdeveloped parts of the world and say that we would only do something if this problem were more manageable?

Can't we do something little to help instead? Not spend $5 on "x" but instead give it to an organization like World Vision. Create ways to help those in poverty in our communities. Divvy up responsibility into small manageable chunks, so that people do feel that they have done something massive and yet easy enough for people to actually do anything at all.

As for spiritual emptiness, instead of 'evangelizing the world' why not look at making yourself really be salt of the earth? That God working in us really does change what we do, how we think, how we act, just as salt changes the flavor of what it seasons. That we can lead people to a fuller relationship with God by ourselves displaying it in our lives, words, thoughts, actions.

Seth's post reminded me of a poem by Loren Eisley in The Star Thrower. I couldn't find the specific text online, so this is a horribly rendered version of how I recall it, bear with me:
There was a man who went to the ocean to do his writing. He often walked up and down the beach for inspiration.

He was walking towards the beach at sunrise one morning for his tradition, and he saw a figure in the distance that looked as if he were dancing. The man thought how wonderful it was to see someone dancing on the beach at sunrise and decided to go talk to him.

As he drew closer, he saw that the figure wasn't dancing, but was a young man who was reaching down, picking up objects and hurling them into the ocean.

As he drew even closer he realized what the objects were, they were starfish. Then he looked up and down the beach as he approached and saw thousands upon thousands of starfish in every direction that had washed up upon the shore.

He called out to the young man, "Good morning, may I ask what you're doing?"

The young man looked up and replied, "I'm throwing starfish back into the ocean."

"Yes I can see that, may I ask why?"

"The sun is rising, and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back into the ocean, they will die on the beach."

The writer was struck at the statement. He responded, "Young man, don't you realize the situation? There are miles and miles of beach, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of starfish washed up along the shore. Why are you wasting your time, you can't possibly make a difference."

The young man paused for a moment. He bent down, picked up yet another starfish and hurled it into the ocean. As it met the water, he turned to face the writer and said, "It made a difference for that one."