Little apparent gain or impact

I have a book of reflections by Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, with the following quote on page 100:

I think what I need to learn is an almost infinite tolerance and compassion because negative thought gets nowhere. I am beginning to think that in our time we will correct almost nothing, and get almost nowhere; but if we can just prepare a compassionate and receptive soil for the future, we will have done a great work. I feel at least that this is the turn my own life ought to take. (an excerpt from A Hidden Ground of Love)

This statement has a sense of futility wrapped within a determination to do what one can in spite of little apparent gain or impact. It is a very “now” way of viewing life, that what we should do for others  is important in and of itself without needing an obvious and long-lasting impact.

As I drive home from the prison each week, there is a definite wondering, What good will that trip have done? But that isn’t for me to say, really. Since I’m not in one of those cells all alone, how can I even begin to assess what a knock on the door, and a conversation about good things, means to the person inside. I do know that a man last week did say, “I can’t believe this is happening. That you came here, and we are having this conversation.”

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