In the years that I've been working with kids who are a part of the juvenile crime epidemic in this country I've had the the conversation many times that centers on the big question: What do we do about it?
And the subtext in every one of those conversations, at least at the beginning, is this: how can we possibly solve a problem as deep and complicated as this one?
I was reading something about the Buddhist idea of the illusion of separateness. Father Gregory Boyle was referencing it in his book as the way that many people cope with the enormity of problems like this: by believing that there is a separateness between us and the constituents of urban gangs.
That's an easy thing to believe. On the surface, far more seems to hold us apart than in common. But imagine the opposite for a second. Imagine what everyone from the Buddhists to Einstein to Father Gregory suggest: that you are not separate from these kids. We all affect one another. It's true, and our apathy compels us to discard that truth as new age bullshit, but god help us if apathy wins.
And now go back to that question of what we do about this elephantine issue. If this struggle existed within your own family the situation would have to be fairly extreme for you to write the problems off as unsolvable. Because the beleaguered ones are family, we have a far greater reserve of will to try.
So why not consider that strength that we all possess, the strength that not all of us are often called on to employ, when we question what we can do about huge social problems that are solved with a first simple step of awareness and caring.
I offer this not as a formula for taking action, but as a meditation. We all have such tremendous capacity to touch the lives of others so the next time you think of something that seems to great to tackle––either in our modern society or just living down the hall–– ask yourself if you dispelled with the illusion of separateness, would you not find some hidden reserve of will to try. Maybe that someone isn't brother, niece or cousin, but I'm going to going with Einstein and Father G on this one... They're family.