Bill Dodds

A few days ago, my daughter was telling me about something that one of her children had done. It was not something harmful, but it was not something good. “I let it slide,” she said. “You have to pick your battles.”

I agreed.

Not getting around to picking up your toys in your bedroom isn’t on the same level as smacking your brother in the head with one of those toys.

Yes, clean your room but … it’s not the worst thing that can happen.

As a parent, spouse, adult son or daughter, sibling, employer or employee, be wise to pick your battles, to consider what matters and what you can let slide. On a small scale, it’s a matter of judgment tempered with mercy.

In a similar way, as adults, we have to consider and choose what “battles,” what religious, social or political causes, we’re willing to become more actively involved in, and that can be tough because it’s easy to be pulled in so many directions. Do we fight for the unborn, the hungry, the homeless, the abused, the unemployed or underemployed, the exploited, the poorly educated, the homebound, the dying? The list is so long, the stories, the faces, are so sad and the needs are so great.

The church teaches us to perform corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. Jesus told us that whatever we do for these, “the least,” we do for him.

What can we do? And what can’t we do?

We can’t do everything we may want to do. We can choose one area, one issue, to which we feel called. Perhaps we can focus on a need we’ve experienced and our firsthand knowledge of it will foster empathy and understanding.

We can’t save the world. (It has been noted that position has been filled.) But we can make a huge difference in the lives of individuals. That’s true whether we work on the front lines (offering care to women facing crisis pregnancies, for example) or at the systemic level (advocating changes in the laws regarding abortion, for instance).

We can’t hand out blank checks to every worthy cause, ministry or apostolate, or sit on the sidelines and solemnly vow to set up a charitable foundation once we win the lottery. We can give to a cause, organization, ministry or apostolate that needs our donation and will use that gift prudently.

We can pray. There’s no “can’t” to that. There’s no excuse not to do that — today.