Joyful Witness
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By Fr. Erik Esparza

fr-esparza “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” -Saint Mother Teresa

 As you look around the world today you can be overwhelmed by the numerous stories of pain, sorrow, conflict and suffering. Hearing these sounds and watching those images can make one feel helpless.

It is easy to question, “what is going on in the world?” Moreover, when one experiences, personally, or in their family or among their community, the enormous challenges and immense sorrows, it, too, can cause one to doubt and ask “what else can I do?” 

 Giving up is never the answer. Turning away from others in isolation will never solve anything. Feeling powerless is not the response you should have. Jesus calls upon you not to give up, but to surrender to His love. Jesus calls upon you not to turn away but turn to others to make a difference. Jesus calls upon you not to feel powerless, but He empowers you with His grace to change the world around you. 

 One of my favorite stories describes a beach full of starfish with one person resolved to make a difference. 

 The story goes: A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had said to him. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved (referenced from “The Star Thrower” by Loren C. Eiseley).

 This story illustrates beautifully that although there will be moments when the world tries to convince you things are just impossible, you must make a daily choice to love, help, serve, accompany, and give. These responses can and will make the world of difference even if just to the one. This story is obviously not limited to a starfish, rather each starfish can represent a family member who is hurting, a friend who is crying, a neighbor who is giving up, and a stranger who is lonely. There are numerous people out there in the world who need you! I understand it is difficult to help when you, personally, are struggling. You might be convinced there is nothing you can offer or do, but the truth is you were made for the other. God created all of us for community. In reality, we need each other. So, when the world wants to tell you, “you can’t begin to make a difference,” proclaim boldly with your words and actions, “well, I made a difference to that one!”

 Now go forth and be a joyful witness!

Fr. Erik Esparza is Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.