Wise Words – Oceans Are Made of Drops

“Oceans are made of drops.”

Seth Godin


I want to do good. I want what I do to matter, to have an impact, to make things better. But sometimes I feel that all my actions are like drops in an ocean. Unfathomably vast, an ocean can swallow whale pods, shipwrecked fleets and entire mountain ranges without a ripple. If I dip my hand and pull it back, a few drops fall, making no difference to the ocean at all.

Even this post, a handful of words thrown out like a paper airplane, like a prayer curling up on the smoke of a candle. Will these words do any good?  Whether you are a writer, an artist, a volunteer, a business leader, an advocate for change, or just someone doing an act of kindness, you probably have similar moments when you doubt whether your small acts can count for much when the ocean of need is so immense.

Faced with the undeniable truth that our actions are like drops of water, the question is, why do we bother?

Well, because what Seth Godin says is also undeniably true:  oceans are made of drops. Nothing else. If all the drops were gone, there would be no ocean.

The big goals of ending poverty, changing our climate, mending race relations, healing communities, preventing war, or making the world more beautiful, all sound like impossible pipe dreams too big to tackle. Like all goals worthy of human effort, they loom at an astronomical scale.

But somehow, that’s what humans do, we work on the impossible.

Doubt and despair are understandable. Behind each of these ocean-sized goals is an ocean of pain. To avoid the depth of this pain, we look for an excuse to shrink back, to look away, to not be involved. But we are already involved because the work of the world is interconnected. There is no safe haven, no real path of retreat from the problem, the pain or the work.

You are a unique and beautiful expression of human potential. Your singular combination of talents, strengths, experience, life history, ideas, quirks, beauty and brilliance will never be repeated, not in the lives of 100 million suns. Resting in you are gifts that can only arrive through your choice and action.

The key is to focus on the right question. It’s not your job to fill the ocean, you just have to do what’s in front of you. Ask what can I do today?  Where can I add a small insight, a word of encouragement, a bit of reason, a hint of hope, a pearl of wisdom?  Your job is to add your piece. And then again tomorrow. And the next day and the next.

You don’t have to do it alone. Adding your drops a day at a time has an effect on you and on others. The effect on you is that you fulfill the fundamental need we all have to give our unique gifts in service to the whole. The effect on others is that they see you adding your drops and are inspired to step forward and do the same. And over the long haul, along with the work of many, many others, those drops can fill an ocean.

That’s how oceans are made.

Which leaves me wondering, what small piece will I add today?

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

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