Something’s been niggling me.
I recently watched this TikTok in which a person was criticizing a prayer circle and sound bath that was being put on to grieve and pray for Ukrainian refugees. Her argument was twofold:
- The Ukrainians have been very clear about what they need and it is not for us to ritualistically grieve on their behalf, and
- Sound baths are nonsensical.
I agree that sound baths sound like over-the-top woo-woo ridiculousness. I can’t wait to try one!
But about that ritualistic communal grieving…
Sure, we could take the gas money we might spend going to church or our local yoga studio or that special cottage deep in the woods, and spend it on Ukrainian aid instead. According to the Wise and Omnipotent Google, the average car gets 25 miles per gallon. Gas prices here are currently at about $4. So if my trip to the sound bath prayer circle was 25 miles round-trip, that’s $8 I could send to Ukraine. Wooooooow.
Here’s a thought – and stick with me because I know it’s a stretch – why not do both? It takes maybe a half hour to donate to an organization (most of that time being spent researching a trustworthy place to send your money). So you send your money…..and then what? Twiddle your thumbs? Go about your life? Mind you, these are perfectly valid options. However, a lot of people are really struggling with what is happening, and it’s perfectly normal to want to process those feelings in community. Indeed I would go so far as to say it is good.
What that TikToker said niggles me because it is representative of a broader tendency for people to judge the actions of others – especially in regards to social justice work, charitable giving, community service, etc. I know I’ve felt it. If you do something, it’s performative activism. If you donate, you’re throwing money at the problem. And then there’s the “thoughts and prayers.“
Here’s the thing. If you feel yourself rushing to judgment regarding the nature of someone else’s response to the crisis in the Ukraine – or anything else really – just stop and remember that what you see is not necessarily everything. That person praying for Ukrainian refugees may have already donated money. Maybe they are also acting locally by serving refugees in their own community, regardless of where they come from.
Then again, maybe all they’re doing is gathering in prayer. So what? Maybe they are so overwhelmed and deep in their own traumas and stresses and anxieties of life that they don’t have the bandwidth to even think about Ukrainian refugees. Maybe they’re plumb out of spoons, forks, dinner knives, salad knives, dessert forks, all the cutlery.
Let’s be honest. There is not much we as individuals far removed from the actual conflict can do, and if we do act we may very well get it wrong. We can send money. We can pray, do lightwork, energy healing, set an intention, cast a spell. We can raise awareness. We can volunteer at our local refugee organization. And we can come together in community to grieve and support one another.
How about we give everyone some grace?
(Pssst: while you’ve got that grace jar open, don’t forget to give yourself some grace too.)
Do you want to donate money to help Ukraine?
One bit of advice I heard about charitable giving is that it is a deeply personal act, and it helps to find an organization that aligns with something you personally care about. Do your research, or rely on the research that has been done by a news station, political group, organization, or person you trust.
- As an artist, I was drawn to Voices of Children. They offer art therapy and psychological support to Ukrainian children of war.
- As someone who is involved with our own local refugee organization, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, I was also drawn to Fundacja Ocalenie. According to Reuters, more than 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, and this is one of the organizations that is helping them.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is also a nice place to donate.