Sometimes change is gradual - like practising a musical instrument, little by little, week after month after year, you are changed. But sometimes change is like the snap of an elastic band, it can no longer hold the tension that has been mounting, something new snaps into focus. And still other times, change is like a meteor making impact - out of nowhere, completely unexpected but utterly unavoidable.
I can pinpoint changes in my life that fit each of these three experiences. I think one of the earliest events to move my attitude towards feeling socially responsible happened when a terrified, drugged woman forced her way violently into my London flat. I yelled as she threatened me with a sharp shard of mirror. I screamed when the police eventually came to the door - how I wish my neighbours had taken notice of the noises that they had undoubtedly heard.
A few days or weeks later I saw a man lying face down on the floor outside a house on my street. I knew it was a hostel of some kind, where people just released from prison, or narrowly avoiding homelessness stayed. Most people gave the place a wide berth - but I stopped, checked he was fine, helped him inside.
I write this from Vienna airport, where I've just handed in an iPad left on a seat. This got me thinking - I could have walked past and not put myself to any trouble, as others must have done, but I didn't see it as an option to ignore my social responsibility.
So it is with the so-called refugee crisis. Awareness of how people have fled their homes spirals outwards. How can I not care about the war in Sudan when I have friends with family there? What can I do to raise awareness of the life that faces people deported from the EU to Iraq when people I now fear that fate for themselves?
But it's so much to care about! The world is suffering crisis after crisis both at home and abroad. Western politics is increasingly hostile, kindness and caring are no part of debate and discussion. It's so easy to feel overwhelmed and not know what to do.
As with so many things (and I learn this myself time after time), it's about taking one step at a time. What about donating clothes, setting up monthly giving to an organisation like Roots or No Name Kitchen? Or if the climate is higher in your priorities then find small ways to reduce waste, cycle more, take one less plane journey, plus the work of Greenpeace is amazing.
When I started this blog post, it was partly building an excuse to myself for not going through with something I've started. That spending time and money on helping organisations was worth more than my 'real' job. Since writing the first part, several things have lined up to give me confidence that - despite the huge problems in the world, it's worth doing the small things and being open to the big things. And also that it's not one thing or another, it's possible to have a mixed up life with different things in it.
I would love to hear reactions to this post. Do you kind of get where I'm coming from? What would you like the next post to focus on? Comment below!