Sunday’s Wisdom #380: Choosing to Stand

“It was a better life. And I don’t mean all the traveling and seeing aliens and spaceships. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know, he showed you, too. That you don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away!”
– Rose Tyler, Doctor Who
Season 1, Episode 13, “The Parting of the Ways”

I think this was the moment I first started to really love Doctor Who. Sure, it was cool and adventuresome, funny and thrilling and sad, but this… this was the moment where it began to have more meaning in my eyes.

Rose Tyler is basically a normal girl who has been living a normal life, seeing no great wonders but also safe from any horrors and free from any great burdens on her shoulders. Then she met the Doctor and traveled time and space. She saw amazing things, did amazing things, but most of all, she learned to live a better life, without her head in the sand. Now, in a moment where the Doctor himself is trying to keep her from danger, all she wants is to go back to his side, to help him, to do what is right even though it could kill her.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with living a normal, peaceful life. That is the ultimate dream, really. And for most people, that’s the most that we can do. All we can manage is to get through each day. We know there’s trouble somewhere, elsewhere, but we don’t know what we can possibly do about it. So we just… go through life, day by day, not looking for trouble, not wanting trouble. Until the day that trouble comes to us.

That is the day we learn whether we will stand up against it, or run and hide and try to keep going about our daily, peaceful lives as if nothing is wrong.

I also want to say that there are many ways in which we can stand up against everything wrong in the world. Not all of them involve using a gun. Some people stand against all the pain and suffering of the world by becoming doctors, or fighting with words and laws as lawyers, or building homes for the homeless, or feeding people who are starving, or making clothes for the poor. Some people build and maintain machines which enable others in performing momentous tasks. Some maintain systems of information and communication, allowing others to coordinate their efforts. Some tell stories to make children laugh even in dire circumstances. Some simply give everything they have, without reservation, be it food and drink, shelter, working space, money, whatever.

It doesn’t matter exactly how one helps. Those who are determined will find a way, and every way is needed.

Some of my favorite examples of people giving their all to help:

Back in World War 2, the people who worked in a particular shipyard came together to do something monumental: they built a new ship, in its entirety, within one day. A single 24-hour period. It was not something they could do often, not least because of how much raw material they would need, but they did it.

My best friend once led an effort to gather up several thousand books to send to our soldiers in the Middle East (Afghanistan, I think, but it might have been Iraq). He got thank you notes, because when the soldiers weren’t fighting, the worst enemy to stave off was boredom. He helped alleviate that.

The current conflict in Ukraine has been all over the news and social media. It has been inspiring to see people stepping up to help in whatever way. A beer company bottling molotov cocktails, a priest performing a wedding for a couple who is entering the fight side-by-side, Egypt giving Ukrainian tourists extended leave to stay without charge, Poland offering refugees a path to escape with their beloved pets, Elon Musk responding to a call from the Ukrainian government to cover their internet access, and countless citizens taking up arms in defense of their country.

Compared to all of that, of course I feel like anything I could do would be meager, not only for Ukraine but for the entire world. But I am looking for a way I might help, if only by sharing as much hope and encouragement as I can.

I am not better than anyone else. I have my problems and worries and bills to pay, and it often seems like I can barely get through each day as it happens. And I don’t have any genius ideas of what to do. I am as in need of guidance and leadership as anyone else. But if there is anything I can do, I want to do it.

I choose to stand.

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