Do you feel overwhelmed with how much work there is to do on your anti-racism journey? It’s so easy to get stuck in a place of inaction because one small step seems so meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But that’s where the concept of “do the next right thing” can help.
The phrase, “the next right thing” has been used by multiple people, both presently and throughout history: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Theodore Roosevelt, author Emily P Freeman, and, most recently, Anna from Disney’s Frozen 2! The phrase is powerful and practical because humans get stuck in indecision a lot, especially when it comes to big decisions and complex issues. The phrase is a reminder that while we can’t do everything at once, we can do the next right thing. One thing at a time. One logical, small next step.
When I consider the process of becoming an anti-racist with all the books there are to read, all the organizations that need supporting, all the mindsets that need dismantling, and all my kids need to learn, it gets overwhelming. And it’s easy to get stuck in a place of inaction because one small step seems so meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
But that is where we must stop and remember that a small step is not meaningless. The cumulation of small steps is greater than we can perceive in the moment. I love this quote from novelist J. Courtney Sullivan (quoted in the book “Don’t Overthink It,” by Anne Bogel):
“Nothing had just happened to her, she had made a choice, and then she had made another and another after that. Taken together, the small choices anyone made added up to a life.”
So, if we want a life defined by being anti-racist Jesus followers, we will make many small choices that support that goal.
As I’ve kept those values in the forefront of my mind, I’ve found that it is easier to figure out how to take small action steps within the context of my normal life. The process of praying and thinking increases my awareness which results in me seeing opportunities where I wouldn’t have seen them before.
So, this is what the next right thing looked like for my family this week:
- Buying a doll of a different ethnicity. My one-year-old is always after her sister’s Barbies, so I decided it was time to get her own! In the toy aisle at Target I started to reach for the little, blonde Chelsea doll, which looked the most like her. But as I was reaching for it, I noticed there was also a Black Chelsea. I decided to buy that one instead: not because the doll looked like my daughter but because I want her to grow up understanding that “doll” does not mean “white.” That was a small step in decentering whiteness in our toy collection.
- Choosing representative library books. On this week’s tripto the library I sought out books that featured children of color in addition to the books I would usually select. This was an easy way to incorporate an anti-racist mindset into our existing routines of library “shopping” and reading.
- Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is. I browse Facebook more than I am comfortable admitting! But, as I’ve kept the value of justice in mind, I have started to notice different posts while browsing. This week a call to donate to COVID relief through Gospel for Asia caught my attention. The starting donation was $2 for a bag of vegetables. I had the kids do some chores to earn $2 each. Then we sat down, talked about the injustice of food access and the virus’ effects on it, prayed for the hungry people in Asia, and then sent in our money. I hadn’t planned any of this, but when the opportunity arose I was ready to take it because I had a “values-based mindset” instead of an apathetic one (you can read more about a values based mindset in Anne Bogel’s book “Don’t Overthing It).
None of these steps were huge, but they were all logically the next right thing. Continued week after week, they will add up to something more. As we become more authentic, passionate followers of Jesus, we should always be looking to do the next right thing.
What about you? What could your next right thing be this week in your anti-racist journey? Please share in the comments!
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