Reading recent news headlines can be demoralizing, disempowering, disappointing… and many other words beginning with the letter “d”. There seems an endless trove of negativity about us all. One need only refresh their social media feed to be slammed with all sorts of awful stuff.
What would happen if all the folks upset over celebrity deaths this past year were to have focused all that concern instead on humanitarian crises? I don’t mean just the ones elsewhere in the world. How about caring for homeless families in our communities? What about that person in front of you in the checkout line that can’t afford their groceries? Could you afford to put something back and give them a few bucks, so they can feed their family?
Our global society’s blind eye to things happening right before us all, is precisely why I think so many of us are collectively tail-spinning. It seems like reports of simple acts of selflessness reach near-heroic status on social media. We are all so very thirsty for good news, and yet, we are missing the fact that each of us has the ability to make this world a better place.
Each of us can effect real and positive change. We simply have to choose to do something about it. I think the greatest thing preventing that is our uncertainty, fear, and doubt about what taking a step would look like. As with running, it’s getting off the couch and planting that first step out the door that is the hardest.
Instead, many of us limit ourselves to a status quo existence. We don’t think we can change anything, so maybe it’s enough to get through our day without making things worse. We surround ourselves with the familiar, finding comfort in what we can control, and leaving it at that. We celebrate our small successes and happiness, without any sense that these are but fleeting moments that can be turned upside down due to “bad luck”.
It’s what happens when we focus on the “me”, not the “we”. We forget that everything near and dear to us is to some degree dependent on other people, systems, and synergies. But that doesn’t matter. Just work harder and maybe that raise will happen. Chase that carrot. Someone else runs the show, so just make sure you get your share in the end and call it good.
The carrot-chasing scenario hits close to home. For years I wrangled with the endless guilt of being torn between my job and being a parent. I figured out that one pays the bills, but the other fuels your soul. I own a business, but I treat it like a paycheck that helps me be a better dad. Isn’t that the point of entrepreneurship? To self-actualize and find happiness?
I may not be able to affect global issues or political shifts of concern, but there are many around me, and around each of you reading this, that are looking up to us all for help. Family, children, nieces and nephews, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and random strangers… If we want a better future, we need to be prepared to invest in them, especially those younger than us, who need our parenting or guidance.
That moment when we realize, yes, we *are* part of a much larger system, not of control but of energies, is the moment that we needn’t be oppressed by what we cannot control, and instead, that we can be a source of positive energy and change for those around us. To create synergies, is perhaps one of the most powerful things each of us can do.
Change happens in small, simple, quiet ways. The future is all around you… and it starts within each of us. Simply being a light in the midst of darkness is a big part of it.
Care for those around you. Give blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless. Volunteer at a family shelter. Get involved in community activities. Run for the local school board, or public office. Set your goals on change, and commit yourself to a higher purpose than immediate gratification or profit motive, and flee from greed in all forms as fast as your legs can carry you.
Make your time matter, and you will find your purpose.
Today, I am at a crossroads of incredible opportunity, which would not have been possible but for the collective support and leadership of those closest to me. Had I not listened and learned, I would not now be in a place to pay that back and forward. I believe in a philosophy that, “When we all win, we all win”.
Each of us can create the future we want to see and for the next generation to have. But also, we must do what we can so when the baton is passed, we know it will be carried with the right conviction and respect. The future begins with every choice we make towards that vision. Every step in the right direction, no matter how small, is one step closer to that goal.