Often when you ask a youngster, or even a young adult, "What are you doing?" the answer is "Nothing." And often the truth is that he/she is playing with an electronic or is watching television.
Actually, as long as we are alive and not in a coma, we cannot be "doing nothing."
It may not be anything productive or purposeful, but time (and the potential it holds) is passing and cannot be retracted. And reality waits.
Of course, it is important to rest, to meditate; always being busy is not good.
But resting and meditating is deliberately doing something. As I frequently told students (in that long-ago teaching world): It is impossible not to make a decision; if I don't decide to get up from my chair, I have by default decided to stay seated.
In the wake of the recent tragic shooting in South Carolina, and similar situations, our reaction may well be to assume that there is nothing that I can do to change things. But many will try.
Some will work harder to limit the number of guns available to those who would use them for violence -- not just for massacres, but for those daily shootings which are consistently reported on the news casts.
Although to no avail, I did express to legislators and to any who would listen, my disapproval of Georgia residents being permitted to carry guns on school campuses, in churches, parks and other public places.
Obviously, some attempts may not succeed.
Many will work harder to dispel prejudices and hate for those with different ethnicity or religious beliefs.
If those of us who are Christian (or at least claim to be) would truly practice what our Scriptures teach, we would surely see genuine changes in attitude, especially our own. We might stop laughing at racist jokes or forwarding divisive e-mails.
I wouldn't characterize that as "doing nothing."
We Americans would probably like to do nothing more in chaotic regions such as the Middle East.
Yet the vacuum created by our "nothing" could be filled with someone else's actions which cause trouble.
As individuals we have dilemmas that mirror those worldwide ones. We may face situations in our own families and personal lives that seem to have no clear-cut solutions, or over which we have little control. Yet we should not be paralyzed into the "nothing" that allows bad situations to become worse.
Indeed, as individuals and as a society, we must find ways to change "nothing" into positive thoughts and actions that help to make us better people.
Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.