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Do For One

Trying to be a moral person feels like a minefield some days – there are just so many things one is supposed to care about.  And not just care about – pray about.  And not just pray about, but mobilize for or against.

For starters, I am supposed to care about, pray about, give to, and advocate (passionately) for or against the following:

Tornado/Tsunami/Earthquake victims
The homeless
Communities with no access to clean water
Communities with no access to basic health care
Communities with no access to life-saving vaccinations
Every child within 6 degrees of separation of me that has a chronic or terminal illness
Third world poverty
Global hunger
Hunger in America
Sex trafficking victims
Children in the foster care system
My own children
My marriage
Genetically altered foods
People that have never heard the gospel (every people group individually)
Global warming
Puppy mills
The police department, fire department, and our troops overseas.
All children with special needs
At risk children and the failing education system
The drug epidemic
Cancer research
AIDS research
The crisis in Syria
The conflict in the Middle East
The crisis in Uganda
Marriage Equality

The truth is, I do care about these things, about the people involved and the implications.  I’ve prayed about them too – mostly (I can’t say that I’ve stormed the gates of heaven over puppy mills or genetically altered food).  But let’s be realistic: if I tried to pray for all the things that I’m supposed to care about every day (or even every week) I wouldn’t have any emotional energy left to, I don’t know, BREATHE.

I suspect that we could fill the state of Texas with well-meaning people who are paralyzed in their compassion because it’s just too much.  If they opened their hearts up, opened their schedules or their wallets up to every need, they would not survive it. In the Cinderella movie, Ever After, Prince Henry says, “I used to think that if I– if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad.”  I’ve felt this tension so acutely, haven’t you?

The liberating truth is that you don’t have to care about everything, at least not in equal measure.  You are not a pie chart that has to be divided equally among the needs of this world.  The truth is that it’s okay to have a focus, a purpose – in fact, you were created for one.

The following concept unparalyzed me.  It returned unto me my compassion and generosity, and it freed me from indecision and guilt.  This concept helped me to reconcile my inexhaustible feelings with my very-exhaustible resources.  The secret is this:

“Do for one person what you wish you could do for everyone.”
[Andy Stanley]

I cannot donate to the victims of every natural disaster – so I will do for one precious family what I wish I could do for everyone.
I cannot support every missionary – so I will do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.
I cannot mother every orphan; I cannot love every child that hurts – so I will do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.  God, how I wish it.

I can’t send every greeting card.  
I can’t attend every wedding.
I can’t take every flight or visit every friend.
I can’t devote fervent prayer to every lost soul or every suffering saint.
I can’t buy pants for every homeless person.

I could never advocate for every cause that touches my heart, because they all touch my heart.  But I can do for one person what I wish I could do for everyone.  I can do the next right thing.   The fact that I can’t buy groceries for all the single moms should not dissuade me from buying them one time – for one mom.  It is foolish, if not cruel, to withhold goodness simply because we cannot give the same goodness to everyone.

One of the beautiful things about the body of Christ is that it functions as a body.  Each soul a cell.  Each with a different purpose, a different burden, a different area of passion and concern.  And when every soul does the next right thing, when every soul is free to do for one person what they wish they could do for everyone, the world gets loved well.



  • Jamie H

    I definitely appreciate this post. so. very. much. Lately I’ve seen that I’ve tried to divide myself too many different ways, and it has me weary. I’ve been pulling back, reevaluating and asking myself where is my one focus, my one passion, sure I can have more than one, but which one thing needs the most energy. Having a passion and a husband and kids is enough on its on. But doing for one what I wish I could do for all will help direct the rest of my energy and compassion. Thanks.

    • Kate Conner

      Yes! I have 2-3 areas of great, big burden/passion/love – those are what get my advocacy and giving. But in my every-day life, with family, friends, and neighbors, my mantra has become “Do for one.”

  • Cindy

    The thing I’ve wanted to work in the most for years is anti-trafficking. I tend to donate a little bit here and there, but never do more just because it’s such a big seems-like-it-cannot-be-fixed problem. I shall think on these things you say ;-)

    • Kate Conner

      “No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” -Edmund Burke (from a Twitter follower. So good, right?) :)

      • Cindy

        Truth…Dangit ;-)

  • KelliCox

    very well said!

  • Heather McKay

    This is good, Mrs. Conner. And spot on for me these days…lots of happiness to you and yours!

  • Christine Trevino

    What a fabulous perspective. I have wrestled with the same thoughts and I love your perspective. I also love that you quoted Ever After. One of my all time favorite movies. I didn’t think anyone remembered that anymore! :)

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  • Ashlee

    This is really, really good. I love your perspective, Kate. My friend and I are traveling to Africa this summer, just the two of us, to serve a small specific group of women. At times I have felt guilty about that…like because I am traveling so far and it’s so expensive, that maybe it would be better if I went with an organization and served hundreds of people instead, even though that type of trip seems very overwhelming to me. I love the do-for-one concept, and will be sure to embrace that this summer when I’m in Liberia. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jennifer Washburn

    This is a great reminder! Single focus is something we so easily lose because we are distracted by so many things!