A Celebration of Small Changes

I started the One Small Change series almost a year ago because social justice is one of those things that I feel passionate about in a sort of wispy, idealistic way.

I started it because I saw the world is cracked through with poverty, injustice, hate and cruelty and it made me feel powerless. There are 276 stolen school girls in Nigeria, and that’s just one of a million problems beyond my scope or resources that makes me feel overwhelmed. I want to be a person who intentionally orders her everyday life toward others.

I want the things I buy and use and consume to connect me to these realities rather than to insulate me from them.

one small change series

In an ideal world, every item of clothing I owned would be carefully considered and good for the one who made it. I’d use eco-friendly cleaning products and healthy-for-you, homemade sunscreen. My toy box would not have sixty-five million McDonalds Happy Meal toys in it.

And yet. I’m raising small kids and trying to write a book and that means a lot of frozen Jack’s pizza and bulk corn dogs from Walmart instead of fresh food from local farmers that I prepare lovingly in my kitchen.

Even though I know that there is great freedom in just putting it back, sometimes I handle my stress by buying stuff I don’t need. I fall prey to the pretty clothing racks at Target and end up with a brand new shirt-dress and another tote bag that was made in some factory that I can’t visualize and don’t want to.

I still buy Clorox bathroom cleaner instead of the good-for-the-earth kind, because I have one boy who’s potty training and one who’s aim is, frankly, not awesome, and sometimes, I just need the brain-cell-killing, nostril burning, chemical scent of CLEAN.

Over the past year, I’ve hosted more than thirty amazing writers with fantastic ideas about small changes to implement. I’ve read each one, nodded along, noted in my heart where and how I can integrate these things…and so many times, I haven’t done it.

I’ve been meaning to rid our house of paper napkins since I read Micha Boyett’s amazing post on cloth ones. And even though the issue of child slave labor makes me insane, I still haven’t been able to make the financial leap to fair-trade chocolate chips.

I am such a work in progress. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m in progress. I feel like I’m moving backwards.


This year has been a strange mix of feeling empowered, while at the same time, recognizing my inadequacy to make even the smallest changes by myself. And yet, here, always here, is where I find myself amazed by grace, His power made perfect in my weakness.

During this series, my victories have been few and my failures legion. But I find that the words and changes of others have begun to orient my heart toward these small moments of justice.

The other day, the Write a Letter card came along with our update on the child we sponsor, and for the first time in the decade we’ve been sending money, I sat down and wrote that letter. I don’t know what’s kept me from it all years: the gap between his life and mine, that strange dynamic of sponsor-child that makes me feel uncomfortable with my American privilege. Time. Busyness. All of these things forming a barrier to connection that I haven’t been able to cross.

But something changed this month, and I sat down at the table for ten minutes with a pen and wrote.

It felt humbling, to do it after all this time. To say, Listen, I’ve done a poor job of keeping in touch with you. But I want to do better. And it occurred to me as I stuffed a couple of pictures of our family into the envelope along with my letter, that this is what I was trying to get at all along with this series. I was trying to find the courage to stand in the uncomfortable tension between my own privilege and the world’s need. And one small change at a time, I’m figuring out what that looks like.

It’s hard and beautiful and worth every failure, every success, every moment of honest prayer and humility.


Thank you for following along with this series and contributing your insights and wisdom. I plan to continue exploring these things on the blog, though less intensively as we have this year. You can also follow my One Small Change board on Pinterest, which I hope to keep updating as I find and explore new ideas.

I’m including here the list of every One Small Change post in the series. Take a minute and read a few if you missed them. And then let me know in the comments – are there any that stuck out to you? What changes have you made in your journey toward social justice this year?

15 thoughts on “A Celebration of Small Changes

  1. I hear your pain and recognise and celebrate your victories. Praying that one day I too will realise that there is so much more I personally can do without doing that much more. It’s tough and I congratulate you. Xx Lisa

  2. Oh so excited to hear you wrote that first letter. I just sent our monthly letter in the post box this morning. Those letters are soo important to the sponor kids.
    Can’t wait to check out the rest of these posts.

  3. I was the same way with writing letters to our child. Then about 2 years ago, I sent one with some stickers and I got back the most heart touching thank you. She described each individual sticker I sent. So I see it does make a difference, albeit a small one, in one little girl’s life, halfway across the world. But its worth it.

  4. To be honest, I felt like a lot of the “small changes” were…not that small. I guess they’re all context dependent.

  5. Which organization do you feel is best for sponsoring a child? I had sponsored children through Christian Children’s Fund for years and stopped, not because of the cost, but because I felt guilty about not writing to my child more often. You have inspired me to consider sponsoring a child again. I look forward to your reply. Thank you, JeanAnn

    1. Hi JeanAnn,
      (I know this question is directed at Addie, but I hope it’s okay for me to chime in…I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this also!) 🙂
      One of my favorite organizations is Food for the Hungry. They are not as large as Compassion or World Vision (both also excellent and reputable organizations), but I love the work that they do and their focus on developing communities. I have seen first-hand the work they do and have traveled to a community in the Dominican Republic for 3 consecutive years while in college.
      While Compassion focuses on children’s education (and I think they do this very well–I started sponsoring a child through them about 7 years ago, and I believe that their work is making an impact), Food for the Hungry works toward developing the entire community holistically by empowering local leaders in communities, churches, and families. When they enter a community, they ask community members what their needs are, rather than telling them the kind of work they will be doing–I think this is a really important step in helping people in a way that will last.
      They do child sponsorship (for a specific child that you can write to and build a relationship with)… but they also train women how to teach other women in the community about safer cleaning and cooking practices (preventing disease). They teach sustainable farming practices and help women start community savings groups (where women in the community pool their funds and lend it out among themselves for large purchases, in order to start small businesses or other things to provide for their families). They teach about AIDS prevention with youth.
      Anyway, I could go on and on. From what I’ve read about poverty and development, I think the work that FH does through child sponsorship and other programs is sustainable and holistic.
      One last thing (you get bonus points if you have read all of this!)…they have something called church partnerships, where your church can partner with a specific community in another country. Your church members can sponsor children from that community, and you can also take short-term trips to your partner community to learn, to build relationships, and to work side-by-side with people in that community.

      Okay, sorry this is so long and I kind of hijacked this! I love this topic and I’m always hoping to learn more, so I’d love to hear others’ thoughts. 🙂

    2. I have no idea which one is best. We have sponsored through Compassion for many years. But truly, it wasn’t a well-researched decision. I think we may have picked up “our kid” at a Christian concert, back when we went to those still. I have heard a lot of great things about World Vision and believe that they’re doing really great, holistic, community work. Really, I don’t know that you can go wrong.

  6. This is such a great series. Oh, I know that feeling of overwhelm. It’s so important to remember that we don’t have to do everything, and we don’t have to do it all at once. I have this feeling of “must-do-everything-now” so often, but what I’ve learned is that I can’t be passionate about everything because I can’t pour myself fully into a myriad of issues. My desire is to pursue that which I’m passionate about wholeheartedly (for me, this is culture/Latin America/immigrants and refugees), but still find small ways to support other causes and issues. This idea is kind of the underlying philosophy that helps me understand how and what and why to take action. It’s very much a work in progress in my life, too…and most of the time, I feel like I’m really not doing much. But I think it’s that tension you mentioned…I’m living in the tension somewhere between overwhelm and indifference.
    Thank you so much for connecting and sharing all of these. I’ve read a few of them over the last few months and have really enjoyed them…I hope to peruse many more of them over the coming months.

    1. “My desire is to pursue that which I’m passionate about wholeheartedly, but still find small ways to support other causes and issues.” A beautiful mission statement, Naomi. Thanks for sharing it.

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