Depth vs Breadth

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I just finished a brilliantly written, remarkably moving novel called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. One of the themes of the book is social service - can one person make a difference in the world. At one point one of the narrators, Sarah, an upper-middle class working woman reflects, "Do you remember back when you felt you could actually do something to make the world better?"

Meanwhile, I had also recently read a blog post over at Rage Against the Minivan. The post was on a topic that comes up often when discussing international adoption - people want to know why spend all that money (usually $15,000-$30,000) on one adoption when you could instead finance the building of 4 wells for clean water and affect 200+ lives?

I love what Kristen wrote over at Rage. Who gives anyone else the right to judge how you spend your money? Why do some people buy their kids $100 Nikes when they could buy him $20 Target sneakers and give the rest to the homeless community? (And I love her point that a hospital birth is often more expensive than adoption!) Not to mention that many adoptive families, particularly international adoption, are involved with fighting poverty in their children's home country (I have so ideas brewing about financing some clean water projects in Ethiopia that I'm pretty excited about.)

While I was in Denver my friend Kelly and I mulled over both these topics. Can one person truly make a difference in the world? And is it better to use your resources (time, money, connections, etc.) to significantly affect one person's life or better to do something less substantial for a large group of people?

Kelly pointed out in her own career choices it's a difference of depth versus breadth. She explained, that while teaching she felt she was positively affecting all 30 of her students. Involving herself in their education and fragile 6th grade esteems. However, you can only get so deep with each child when there are 30 of them. Now, in her time with children through social work, she deals directly with less kids but at a deeper level. 

Is one better than the other? 

I think I have a tendency to believe that breadth is better because it's more grandeur. It often gets more attention. BUT living a life that positively affects anyone (one or one-hundred) is equally valued. 

Martin Luther King Jr., for example, was more of a breadth guy - influencing and affecting hundreds of thousands of people. I'm going to bet that his Mama was more of a depth girl - very positively influencing and directly affecting her son. 

I think too that we might fluctuate between having depth of influence and breadth of influence at different times in our lives. I have dreams of changing the world. I would love to work in a third-world county fighting poverty, teaching woman about family planning, and caring for orphans and street children. However, at this point in my life I feel as though the Lord has me in a place of depth instead. Pouring into my husband and child and other one-on-one relationships.

We often don't give enough emphasis on the important of pouring out to others in depth - particularly in regards to parenting. We praise the celebrity crusader and usually forget that someone (probably a parent) poured into him/her first helping shape his/her values. We love Abraham Lincoln who forever changed the lives of millions, but we forget to praise his influential step-mother as well. So in the midst of the monotony of raising a house full of little people we might ask ourselves, "do you remember when you thought you could make a different in the world?" forgetting that we very well are making a significant difference.  I know that I need to be reminding myself because I too often get discouraged that my life isn't influential enough.

Big thoughts swirling in my head lately. Kelly also thought that with all my big thoughts and my tendency to talk too much and too loudly I should look into a career as a lobbyist. :) How I love the depth of influence of a good friend.

I pray that my life would deeply affect this guy for Jesus
*And I love the fact that I first published this post "Depth vs. Breath" - obviously my second grade spelling teacher didn't go for the depth thing with me


Jessica G. said...

Good blog Anna! I would definitely say we can change the world. If everyone thought they couldn't, the world would be a dark place. And if I thought I couldn't make a difference to even one person, I don't know what I would live for.

I think we are all called in different ways to serve and change the world. And like you said, who are we to judge how someone spends their money or the convictions they have to change the world. Instead, we should pat them on the back for doing something so great. And I really do think you and RJ and doing something great. You are seeking God and adding to your family how you feel led. You love that child (or children) so much that you will financially sacrifice to get them to you. That is a very beautiful thing and I don't know how someone could judge that.

Linda Z said...

Great topic, Anna. I like the idea of thinking about depth and breadth. I tend to be more of a depth person... I think that is where my giftings lie. But I am open to what God wants to do at various seasons of my life... maybe he will use me in more of a breadth way at another time as he has in the past. Whatever the case may be, I want to pursue contentedness. I want to fully live in the calling He has for me at any given time.

Anyway, I'm blogging again. I love your new format and title! :) And sorry about the Target incident!!! Such a bummer, but I'm sure you handled it with a lot of grace!! It would have been hard not to grab "picture lady's" phone!! :)

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