Imagine two circles. In the first circle you place all the issues that concern you. It may be a circle filled with the issues that are with you all the time. It may be a circle that only comes to you or especially comes to you at 3:00 AM when you cannot sleep. So many problems in the world–so easy to fill this circle. This circle may be filled with a single issue that you give many hours to in volunteer or even professional hours of work. This circle may seem to grow and expand exponentially almost daily with issue after issue. They seem all so connected! The issues in the world that concern us may be personal, interpersonal, local, regional or global. They may be a combination of all these things.
The second circle contains those people, situations and institutions with whom we have any sort of influence. While the first circle often seems to fill up with so many issues that concern us, sometimes, this second circle feels small. We become so overwhelmed with what concerns us in the world that we begin to feel like we can make no difference. That is actually not true. Each of us has not only a circle of concern, but we also have a circle of influence. This circle is filled with those whom it is filled with. These are individuals. These are individuals who themselves have circles of influence in systems and communities that we do not. Because they are in our circles of influence, they become a way that what we do with them may move geometrically into other communities.
Two circles? Yes. There is the circle filled with your concerns, the things you care about in the world. There is also the circle of people that you can influence with your concerns. Because each of those people also have their circles of concerns and influence what we care about really can make an impact–for good–for justice–for compassion’s sake.
What concerns are in your circle? What influence do you have with people? These are your circles in which to do the work of social justice. Social justice is the work of compassion, seeing the suffering of others and acting to alleviate it.