Well We Can’t Change Things Can We?

August 4, 2019 · 4 min read

“Well we can’t change things can we?”

– I will be 60 years old this year and I lose track how many times someone has said that to me in my life.

How Do You Respond To World News?

Most recently this phrase came up as I was crying over a news report from Syria of a family home being bombed. There was a photograph of a five year old dying little girl trying to hold on to her baby sister to stop her falling to the floor below. And failing. It was devastating.

And I wanted to do something, I walked around the room like a mad woman, clenching and unclenching my fists. I roared. I was desperate to find a way I could help. I wanted to hold the little girl as she died and tell her she was safe and it would be okay. And I wanted to catch the baby before she hit the ground. And I wanted to stop war and conflict and needless suffering. But I couldn’t could I because, well, we can’t change things can we? Not when I live up a mountain in Italy and this is all happening so very far away.

Being sensible, it was not in my power to do something about that situation. Other than offer up Buddhist prayers for those children and others in the same circumstances. But I don’t have to accept it and walk away and never think of it again and stay safe in my own world. These things are happening throughout the world and we should be upset and angry and want to change things.

The Five Precepts
"The Five Buddhist Precepts" - artwork by Dorothy Berry-Lound
Well we can't change things can we
"Forgiveness" by Dorothy Berry-Lound


As you raise the stick
to hit him again
he flinches
in anticipation of the blow.
Bound, helpless
a baby.
You want to break his spirit
but his soul
will soar forever
whilst yours
will be weighed down
with your actions.
Role reversal.
You are tied and helpless
anticipating pain
as he stands over you.
he will release your bonds
and love you
for he is compassion.
And you will learn.

(c) 2015 Dorothy Berry-Lound

We Can't Change Things Can We? Or Can We?

But you know, I have been thinking how often do we use that phrase ‘well we can’t change things can we?’ as a comfort blanket. As a ‘get out of jail free card’ so we actually don’t have to do anything. Because no-one would expect us to would they? That is what governments and charities are for isn’t it? And anyway we shared that post on Facebook to show we cared about something didn’t we?

But as individuals I believe we have a responsibility to everyone to do the best we can. It is within all of us to effect change.

When I can do something about something I do it, rescue a cat, give money to a beggar, donate to charity. In my time I have marched to save whales, protested at the building of a road through beautiful landscape and more. When I can’t do anything to help a situation I turn to my writing and artwork to express my feelings. Art and writing can be both healing and informative.

Art As An Outlet And Raising Awareness

In a previous article I wrote about angels in artwork and I mentioned a poem and art piece I created in response to bombings in Aleppo. The poem was called ‘Tears for Aleppo’.

Another poem I wrote is called ‘Forgiveness’ and the associated art piece was created because I felt helpless about a situation involving the torture of baby elephants.

Responding To Helplessness

A few years ago, I read an article on baby elephants being tortured to make them compliant for the tourist trade. The article was part of a campaign by Animals Asia to raise awareness of what was happening. The torture is called Phajaan and is incredibly cruel. I was distraught and I couldn’t get the images and descriptions out of my mind. It was yet another occasion when someone said to me ‘well we can’t change things can we?

I signed a petition and donated to the charity which is trying to stop the cruelty and raise awareness among potential tourists. After that, the only thing I could practically do to help was to express myself and spread awareness. So I wrote this poem ‘Forgiveness’ as it was the only way I could cope with it.

Dalia Banner

Awareness Raising Is Like Dropping Pebbles In A Pond

This is not just my way of coping with my feelings on a subject. It is also in the hope that someone will read something I have written and be moved by it. Like a ripple effect in a pond when you drop a pebble. Perhaps you had not heard of this torture of baby elephants, Phajaan, before. But know you know you won’t forget it and you may talk to other people about it. Consider that particular pebble dropped.

When I was younger I wanted to change the world and got worn down trying. A wise old man said to me that I should lower my sights and use my energy more effectively. That having an impact on just one person, changing their view, encouraging them to think and realize they have the power to effect change, was a powerful thing. And that as the ripples of change spread out, they can change the world. Because I believe we can all change things if enough of us want to. Some in small ways, perhaps collectively in a more powerful way. But we owe it to the world to try. 

Compassion Always
"Always" by Dorothy Berry-Lound

About the Author:

I am a fine art photographer, acrylic artist and writer. Promoting the use of art for healing and enhancing the mood of the environment in which a piece of art sits is an important focus for my work. I specialize in photo art, working on my own photographs to develop their story further. I write poetry and write a blog as well as short stories and have fun combining my art and writing. A Fellow of Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), I am also a Buddhist and my spiritual life makes an important contribution to my work. I live in Umbria, Italy with my husband, dogs and a large number of cats.

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