I absolutely adore books. Not only do they prove to be informative, imaginative, and insightful, they have the ability to touch places within me that resonate for years thereafter. As Josh Riebock so eloquently puts it in Heroes and Monsters, “I have a crush on words.”
I was blessed enough to spend a great deal of time over the summer becoming acquainted with a variety of different stories and “crushing” on each of them in their turn. From Victorian novels, young adult literature, science fiction tales and everything in between, I found for the umpteenth time exactly how powerfully books can speak and how they can effectively inspire me to action. I believe that God uses both information and stories to move us to personal enlightenment and to inspire us to improve upon the world around us.
I found an example of this as I sat through chapel this week and was challenged to take a leap of faith and a larger act of service. We viewed a presentation from the CBU Office of Mobilization and were encouraged to apply to serve on an International Service Project (ISP). This program allows students to raise the funds to travel to another country and do short-term missions in the hopes of bringing both help and hope to individuals encountered along the way.
As I sat through this presentation, I sensed the innumerable doubts that people around me might have in deciding whether or not to join a project. I know that, personally, my biggest fear when it comes to missions is the fear that I would not be able to do enough in that period of time to make a strong enough impact. How could I possibly hope to effectively serve another person whom I will only get a few weeks to be with?
I quickly answered my own question by thinking of a quote from a novel I read just weeks before the semester began.
In the story, a man had determined to abandon his previous career to become an abolitionist during the days that slavery was prevalent throughout the world. He imagined the arguments that others would provide to discourage this new path and responded with such simplicity and clarity. Another character frankly told the character, “Only as you gasp out your final breath will you realize that your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.” The new abolitionist responds with, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” (David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas)
In the novel, I saw how the power of stories gives clarity to my own life. The character in the book addresses that, while the world has many problems to tackle, each person, each drop in a vast sea makes a difference. Each part helps to shape the whole.
I realize that while ISP is just one small way that we can be of service to others, it is nonetheless a valuable opportunity to make some mark on another person or group of people. No amount of time spent in service is too small and not one day spent loving others is too short. Every bit of energy placed into helping other people is certainly not wasted. One need only take the opportunity to serve and give their all to showing love in that service.
I am no more than a young American woman who has determined to live a life pursuing truth and service to the Creator and His people. I have nothing more than what I have been given, but I am constantly learning how my gifts can be used to contribute to the world. We can all act upon the opportunities we are given and use our knowledge to serve in whatever means possible. While this certainly is a big endeavor, the words of the character in David Mitchell’s novel communicate the truth that God values all of His people, and He will use us to make an impact on the world.
Service, in my eyes, always begins with an opportunity and a willingness to seize it. We have been born into different families, situations and economic statuses, yet we all have unique abilities that can and should be used for the benefit of our fellow man. God has created (and commanded) us to serve each other, and in this service we are to show others the same love that we believe the Creator has for each of us. We can all be used in any number of ways to achieve this goal, and we all have to begin somewhere. Let us use our single drop to benefit the multitude.