Changing the world

In my experience, if you listen to virtually any motivational speaker, somewhere in their message is the implicit – if not EXplicit – suggestion that each and every one of us can and should go out and change the world.  I agree: we can and we should.

Here’s the rub…  The concept of changing the world is taught to us in a way that translates as making BIG changes.  Feeding millions of starving children in Africa; building wells and hospitals and schools for people in Asia or South America, etc.  These are BIG projects that require BIG commitments of time, money and materials.

Not everybody can make commitments like that.  In fact, the percentage of people who can do that without completely overhauling their lives is incredibly small.

So, Joe Lunchbucket watches the 60 Minutes report about some guy who starts a shoe company & sends a pair of shoes to Africa whenever he sells a pair to people here.  Cool concept, but it’s a huge undertaking.  Most people struggle just to keep their financial heads above water.  The warehouse worker with 4 kids doesn’t have much opportunity to give his attention to big picture issues.  He’s got enough to do with trying to pay for Joe Jr.’s braces and little Suzy’s eyeglasses.

The end result is that regular people don’t see themselves as being able to change the world.  And they’re right, if it has to mean making a huge impact.

But it doesn’t.

I think most people by now will go along with the idea that we’re all connected in some way.  And if that’s true, then it’s also true that if you do something that improves the life of another individual – even if only in a temporary way – you improve the world as a whole.  You change the world as a whole.

One of the most-often used images of the Boy Scouts of America organization used to be that of a scout helping a little old lady to cross the street.  Something like that is a simple act that costs nothing more than a minute of someone’s time, but it can have a profound effect on that other person’s life.

What if you offered a ride to a teenager who looked like she was having a bad day?  You have no idea what that might do.  She might be feeling as if no one in the world cares about her in that moment.  Offering a ride, even if she refuses, might mean that she doesn’t kill herself in her bedroom when she gets home.  Extreme?  Maybe.  But, do teenagers do stupid, extreme things based on crazy ideas of their place in the world?  Every day.

Plus, you can’t predict – and most likely will never know – if and when some small gesture you make today will cause someone else to turn their life around, or even just pay it forward, extending a helping hand to someone else.  Every act, no matter what kind, causes ripples in the seas of our lives.

If you attend any kind of events where there are speakers, somewhere along the line you will hear about the radio station that we all listen to: WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?  Without starting a debate about selfishness, I’ll just say that we all ARE selfish to some degree.  Why do I bring this up?

Because it’s part of why we do things for others.  It makes us feel good to help someone in need, even if we can’t verbalize a reason why.  It also makes better individuals of US.  The primary purpose of the Boy Scouts is to develop better world citizens.  Don’t believe that helping others is part of their oath by chance:

On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times; 
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

In summary, what I’m saying here is that you can change the world.  In little ways.  In little moments.  And those little efforts could blossom through someone else into bigger and better things.  But, even if they don’t or if you never know about it, you can – and should – still feel good about playing your part in making the planet a better place.

Now, get out there and cause a ripple or two!


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