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A Single Word for 2013

The dust of the holidays has finally settled. The ornaments are swaddled in newspaper. The lights are bundled haphazardly together. (I dread the thought of opening that tupperware next December.) My Michael Buble Christmas CD is tucked back in its holder, and the little baby Jesus is back in his styrofoam home next to the ceramic shepherd boy.

I realized a few days ago that I’ve put away more than just the recycled bows and tattered wrapping paper. I felt it as I listened to the news on my way home. There was talk of flooded refugee camps, vigils for rape victims in India, the trial of James Holmes. The news flooded over me, peppered my ears.

I blinked. But felt nothing.

Something about Christmas seems to heighten our awareness. We feel surges of generosity and good will. Our compassion is boundless. But what happens in January?  There’s no more clinking bell outside Kroger to remind us that people are in need. No bins filled with donated coats. No non-profits putting out their last calls for year end donations. Families have been adopted. Shoeboxes sent overseas. Food baskets made and delivered.

It’s easy to forget that the lives of those in need haven’t changed much since the clock struck 2013. There’s a Dad that still doesn’t have a job. A kid that still doesn’t have a coat. A family that still doesn’t know how they’ll feed their children tomorrow. A woman that’s still a slave.

It’s not the needs that have changed. It’s my heart.

I’ve moved on.

I think this cycle of giving and forgetting is natural. Normal even. For awhile we’re passionate and driven. Determined to change the world. We shop local, go to protests, donate money, send food, buy presents, sponsor a child.

But then we get tired. And the weight of the need creeps up on us, weighs us down, sags our spirits and slows our steps. Suddenly we find ourselves numbed by the numbers. Unable to comprehend another statistic or see another child’s belly swollen with hunger.

It’s normal, this pattern. But just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right.

I was determined not to make any resolutions this year. I never keep them and usually they only make me feel guilty when I find the tattered page buried in a junk drawer sometime in May.

But then I stumbled on to the One Word Community and something struck a chord. I thought maybe a word, a single word, could add focus and direction and meaning to my life this year. Maybe that word could challenge me. Maybe it could force me to leave my comfort zone, push me out of numbness. Maybe a single word is actually short enough to be remembered past January 3rd.

But what word?

I found my answer in, ironically, someone else’s resolution. Shane Claiborne put out an inspiring list of resolutions for 2013, but one in particular stirred my spirit: Do for one person what I wish I could do for everyone.

That’s it. ONE.

My word for 2013.

It’s that weight, you see. That weight of the world’s problems crushing me, numbing me, driving me to apathy or guilt or, worst of all, hopelessness.

I can’t save every girl trafficked, every child hungry, or every friend broken.

But I can save ONE.

I can’t make a meal for all of my neighbors, but I can make a meal for ONE.

I can’t support every local business, but I can support ONE.

I can’t give a coat to every cold human this winter, but I can give ONE.

I can’t feed every hungry family, but I can feed ONE.

I can’t ensure that every child has a good education, but I can do that for ONE.

I can’t give every day’s wages to a family in need, but I can give ONE.

I can’t free every girl from a life of slavery, but I can help free ONE.

I can’t prevent every family from contracting malaria, but maybe I can prevent ONE.

That word? That little word…one…that word for me means surrender. It’s surrendering the burdens of saving the world back into the hands of the only One who’s actually capable of doing it.

It means perspective. It means taking all those great big numbers, those rows of statistics, and putting a single face on them.

It means responsibility. It’s not letting the greatness of the need be an excuse for my inaction.

Would you journey with me this year? The links above will take you to websites where you can help give one person a chance at a better life. Whether it’s an education, a job, a goat, or a coat, these organizations are changing lives, one at a time. What stirs your heart? Find that thing and give. Make ONE LIFE better this year.

I’d love to hear more about your hopes for 2013. Leave a comment and tell me what’s inspiring you, what’s challenging you, what’s driving you. Let’s do this together.

If you’d like to join the One Word Community, you can find out more about it here.

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  • chelsea @ serves two January 17, 2013, 12:46 AM

    great resolution. i love number 11 of Shane’s resolutions. also, have you heard of the book “7” by jen hatmaker? this post brings that book to mind for some reason- you should check it out 🙂

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 17, 2013, 10:45 AM

      Thanks Chelsea! I agree about number 11! I feel like I’ll spend the rest of my life working on that one! Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t read it yet. May have to move it up to the top of the list. Thanks for stopping by!

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