Repairing a Broken World

The hebrew expresion “Tikkun Olam” literally means “to repair the world.” Ideologically it suggests a wholehearted acceptance of the world’s brokenness along with our ability to repair it, or at least our ability to try. It does not point to a particular time or transgression. It does not cast blame. It does not indulge the notion of absolute good or evil. It simply accepts that we live in a broken world and and can, or should (if and when we are ready), reach towards its repair. —Harriet Fasenfest, The Householders Guide to the Universe

I have learned a great deal of humility as I grow in my ability to join our collective repairing of this broken world.

I have at times found myself at a loss to define what “repairing” looks like to me. On the one hand I am impatient with small things like switching to cloth napkins (though please do it if you haven’t yet), and yet it can also take me a very long time to do something as basic as making my own household cleaning solutions. What’s more, as a high achiever, I’m drawn to the dramatic, all or none No Impact Man style changes. Eat only local food! Grow it all! No plastic! Don’t buy anything! No car! Repent!


When our family ended our plastic fast, I felt like a failure for returning to a relatively “normal” life. Still, I knew I had to go in search of balance, and so I surrendered my idea of what I should be doing. I focused my attention on nurturing my family and myself. I learned how to breathe through temper tantrums, to knit and sew, to discover how abundant life on a small single income can be. I carried on with my garden, with milking goats once a week, with hanging the laundry on the line, with building friendships and connection with my community.

I grew and grew and grew.

And the other day I looked around my kitchen and saw that yes, there are plenty of little bits of plastic packaging and such, but actually not very much. We have organically grown away from once ingrained patterns and habits of consumption. While the rules of our fast did foster amazing change and insight in a short period, over the last few years we’ve naturally come to embody that change more fully, more authentically.

For me, a big part of this repair work is an inner repair, one that moves beyond a Type-A Save the World mentality, and towards something infinitely more mysterious.

When we open our hearts to living in a way that strives towards repair, it is our own brokenness that is mended. That must be the first step, for it is our own healing that will guide us to heal the world we inhabit. We have a lot of learning and remembering to do. Just that is enough to fuel our spirits for the good work before us, as we discover the goodness of what it means to create things by hand, to grow things, to lift our voices in song, to really love and nurture, to be whole.

Sometimes it happens by accident. We begin with an action to heal the world, and find ourselves changed for the better. That’s good, too.

Here is something I never thought I’d say out loud: It doesn’t matter what you are doing. It doesn’t matter if you are doing big things or little things, nothing or everything. What matters is that we are all finding our way back to that wholeness. And changing the world from there.

Because I am at home, and it suits my nature, I do what I am doing. Mind the children. Search for beauty. Meet as many of our needs as I can by creating and repairing. Grow a few more vegetables every year, gather herbs from the mountains. Get a little more skilled at all this, a little less awkward. Not worry so much about what other people are or are not doing. Or if anyone is noticing what I’m doing.

So we raise our families and our gardens. We grow out of our radical youths. We may or may not get rid of the car, or have a solar panel array, or ever quite quit plastic. But we do get much better at many things, and also much humbler. Our work of repairing turns out to be about building a new way of life, rather than simply dismantling the old one.

And that will keep us busy for now.

17 Replies to “Repairing a Broken World”

  1. Well Said my dear!! “When we open our hearts to living in a way that strives towards repair, it is our own brokenness that is mended.” So glad to be on this humble journey of mending our souls and world together–

  2. I’m a new follower to your blog and this was just beautiful! “What matters is that we are all finding our way back to wholeness.” There is so much more I would do if I could – but I work full-time, and I’m a part-time PhD student, as well as having my hubby and a spunky 3-year-old little girl. I do what I can, but at least I’m doing something, trying to repair our little world one small piece at a time.

    1. Oh Clara, you have a full plate indeed! May your days find peace and wholeness in the gifts they offer. Thank you for saying hello and joining the conversation here!

  3. Posts like this are why I read your blog (well, I enjoy all your posts but sometimes they are just so timely(for me) and so right on!) I have never commented, but today I wanted to say thank you for writing here- for sharing.

    1. I’m glad this touched you–it means so much to hear from you. I totally agree with you: I think posts like this are why I write this blog!

  4. Kyce,
    This post rocks my world. So many things i have thought in my heart, but never articulated so well. Thank you, as always, for all you do, and how well you share it with the rest of us! Love,

    1. Adrie, you know of course that you planted some of these seeds. I’m still thinking about your post on Peace (was that it?) that also touched on much of this, and would have linked here but can’t ever seem to find it.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post. I am so glad to have stumbled upon your beautiful blog. This post is so moving to me up in northern Canada where we are fighting a pipeline and I am fighting with myself about just how much I can do to heal this broken world and still feel whole enough to be the mama I want to be. Thank you for articulating this so well and for sharing what you do here.

    1. Taisa–thank you for the crucial work you are doing to protect the land. That is so huge, and yes, it is important to find our wholeness amidst so much that is broken.

  6. Thank you for this lovely post. I just found you through Adrie’s Fields and Fire, and have so enjoyed browsing through–feeling inspired! I just finished reading Middlemarch and posted a quote today from the last paragraph of the book with a similar theme: “…for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.”
    Blessings on all your efforts at repairing this broken world!

  7. thanks, Kyce.
    Appreciate reading this. you write beautifully and I adore the pics from our promenade- saw it only recently- it looks really neat!

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