Great-Power Politics or Great-Courage Love

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Leon leading one of his Chai-Making Workshops

Last week, I read about the new great-power politics in the New York Times, and I’ll admit that the alignment of the world’s powers into two camps feels scary and unsettling. This emerging dichotomy is bound to affect all of us in some way, large or small, in the next decade. I confess I worry about my grandchildren and their friends (Generation Alpha) … until I decide not to. Worry is akin to fear. Maybe it is fear.

Here’s what I know deep in my bones about fear: It is a conqueror that saps all the life out of me. Fear brings out the worst in me, so that I become either self-absorbed, paralyzed, or cagey and cynical, or all of the above. The defense mechanisms of fear are not pretty.

I know a lot about fear, having loved a man for a lifetime who was quite near to death more times than I can count. So, trust me when I say: Fear is worth facing down and defeating. Letting it run roughshod over your life is never worth it. The people you care about most in your life need you to not be fearful.

WE, the world, need you to not be fearful.

WE need you to be brave.

Brave enough to “do small things with great love,” as Mother Teresa advised. Brave enough to care about the hard experiences of others even as your life has excruciating parallels to theirs. (Sidenote: I am having to relearn empathy in my widowhood. It looks a bit different now, and it’s harder. I have a deeper appreciation for the empathy of my refugee colleagues at Refuge.) Brave enough to choose what you read, listen to, or watch wisely in order to guard your heart from fear and yet to stay informed. Brave enough to ask yourself these questions:

How will I live despite the state of the world?

How will I do small things with great love no matter what?!

This sounds absurdly arrogant, but I am going to say it anyway because it’s true: When you give (dollars, time, prayer, energy) to Refuge Coffee, you give to bravery in the face of dread, to allyship in the face of the adversaries of unjust laws and even more unjust systems, to a lighthearted hope for a better day in the face of despair.

When you give, fear is chased away! From our barista trainees who need the hope of a job, a decent paycheck, a community that cares for them, and a world that believes in them. From those of us who serve with all the hope we can muster in unhopeful times for nonprofit work. From a city and a nation that needs to see there are places where everyone is welcomed.

More on the Subject

Specifically, a little more on the subject of fear. In his book “Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World,” Scott Shigeoka calls out the “speed bumps” that get in the way of our curiosity. The first one is fear. He goes on to list the kinds of fear that stop us in our tracks: 

  • The fear of rejection 
  • The fear of pain 
  • The fear of failure 
  • The fear of conflict 
  • The fear of the unknown 
  • The fear of change 

I’ve found it helpful to identify my fear in order to move past it. Honestly, there have been many times in my life when I’ve felt every one of the fears listed above. Still do.

At least 35 years ago, Bill and I had our one humongous, epic fight about money. We both brought very different fears to what became a turning point moment. And very different backgrounds. Once the dust settled (lots of choking, blinding dust, by the way!), we agreed that moving forward we would define our life together, not by the financial guardrails that would make for a less fearful future, not by the things we wouldn’t do, but by what we would do: Give. 

Of course, we had a budget to stick to, bills to pay, financial decisions to make about housing, education, etc., but we realized the only way to release our hearts and minds from the always looming fear of not having enough money and the anxiety about what we could or could not afford (this was a realistic fear for most of our marriage!), was to make giving a regular and somewhat audacious habit.

So, for us, we began to translate the question, “How will I live despite the (crazy, unsettling) state of the world?” as How do we give when everything in us wants to play it safe?” 

Please know we struggled every step of the way, often getting this “rule of life” wrong or ignoring it altogether. But I am here to say it has been worth the struggle. I didn’t set out to write about generosity today, but it seems to me I’ve landed where I wanted to in a discourse about fear. So, I’ll end this way. 

WE, the world, need you to not be fearful.

WE need you to be brave.

WE need you to be generous. 

Thankful for the courage you share when you give,


P.S. – Above photo of Leon leading one of his Chai-Making Workshops

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