"Be the change you want to see in the world." But what does it mean, specifically? How do we do that?
I think the first step would be deciding what change you want to see in the world. And pick just one, the one you think is most important. Maybe you think the most important change would be world peace, or people loving and accepting each other without regard to how they are different, or respect and protection of the earth and its resources, or . . . whatever you believe. In order to be successful you must have a direction in which you want to go, a clear goal.
When I think of change I often think of the metaphor of the butterfly. It hatches as a pupa then builds a cocoon in which it becomes a butterfly. The butterfly then lays eggs and starts the cycle again. And each stage has its own challenges.
Change has challenges. So if you want to change the world, you will have to change something about yourself. And that will present some challenges. Be a hero and overcome the challenges, because you are worth it and the world needs you.
What change do you want to see in the world? And what about you will you change to make that happen? Let's talk about it.
These days I find myself being fearful. This isn't normal for me. When fear controls us it seems as if self-interest is the only way to survive. I see a lot of "evidence" that we should separate from others, hang on to what we've got so we don't lose it, pull into our own little circle to be safe.
When self-interest becomes the norm we believe we can't afford to give, to share, to be open. After all, if we give we won't have enough for ourselves when "they" come for it. Doesn't matter who we think "they" are. Maybe it is the "enemy", those who are different from us, the government, whatever.
Fear abounds and we go into defense mode.
However, that fear is what will destroy us. It destroys the inclination to share, to give, to connect outside our tiny circle, to be a part of the greater good, of the world. And together, we really are stronger. I am determined to resist this tendency to fear that which "might" happen.
In the next few days, look at what you are encouraged to fear - Be afraid of people who look different, sound different, believe different. Be afraid of losing your rights, your income, your home, your freedom. Consider if that fear is based on reality or on supposition. When I was working in the mental health field we used to say that "fear" was False Evidence Appearing Real. So much of what we are led to fear is based on false evidence.
Think about this: A ferocious lion is looking at you, moving closer. Are you afraid? Sure, you think. But if that lion is in the zoo and there is a glass wall between you and the lion, you need not be afraid. Is your fear based on fact then? How much of what we fear is based on supposition? It is based on "what if". We ignore the fact that there is that wall between us and the lion. We fear the "what if". It is fantasy because the conditions you fear do not exist. It is not a "clear and present danger." There are facts we've ignored.
Of course, it makes sense to be prepared for what is most likely to occur, but how likely is it really? And does being prepared mean you must live in that fear and withdraw from the rest of your world? Does it mean you must huddle in your own little corner, watching out for that lion that someone says is prowling about, and looking out for no one but yourself?
This is what seems to be happening in these uncertain days. We have lost sight of who we are as a member of a large and strong group of people who can make the world a good, caring, and safe place for one another when we join together. We can.
Let's not be afraid to reach out to others, to be the solution rather than the problem. Let's give our time, talents, and resources to the greater good. We will make each other and ourselves stronger.
Did you know that we humans are more likely to do what we see others do? This also includes giving. We are more likely to give when we know others give and we are more likely to give more when we know others are giving more. This is why creating a culture of giving is important.
I'm not recommending that you brag about how much you give in order to get approval or status. But being open about where and how we give will give others permission and motivation to give as well.
That is one reason that "crowd funding" works.
We know that the same dynamic works for doing harm. People will do harm to others when they see that others are doing it. It prevails in gangs and mobs. Gatherings that begin peacefully can quickly become violent when one or two people become violent verbally or physically. The police know this and this is why they show up at peaceful marches and demonstrations.
These days we see people demonstrating who have never participated in demonstrations before. And they, in most cases, come to promote peaceful change. And they will stay peaceful if the participants agree to avoid violence. Then some agitators arrive and trouble can quickly ensue.
Research has shown that people who witness kindness are more likely to act in kindness. Paying forward is a great example of this. So share with the people around you why you give and how your give. You might even invite them to join you in your cause. When you were a kid, did you ever challenge a friend to do something with you? "I will if you will" was your "dare."
"When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heores changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."
If only a child's needs were make believe, then we could just turn away and not do anything to help, guilt free. Of course, make believe won't help. Real needs must have real help. But you can't turn into the Hulk, can you? But what can you do?
Why not start by looking around in your own neighborhood? There are children in need everywhere so why not start in your own town? What is needed there?
Is there a food bank? That's an easy one for helping. Children may not be dying of hunger where you live but there are malnourished children in many places in the U.S. Malnourished children do not thrive, their learning is affected, their motivation to succeed is affected, and therefore their lives are threatened. In way too many school districts there are children who only get one meal a day - the one they get at school. And on days there is no school they go hungry. Check with the schools in your neighborhood to see if there are children who have no food security, who don't know if food will be available outside of school.
You can give food to the food bank, of course. But usually it is more effective if you give money because they are able to buy more with your donation than you could due to the system they have established with grocers and food suppliers.
Or you may want to support or organize a program in the schools that sends food home with the children in need on Fridays to provide food for the weekend. Some schools have programs that provide canned or boxed meals for two days at the end of the day on each Friday. If this is available in your neighborhood, or one nearby, offer to help by providing canned or boxed meals or by financially supporting one or more children's participation in the program.
What else might children in your neighborhood need? That's easy. Kids need attention. Consider being a Big Sister or Big Brother and mentor a child. This can definitely save a life. This can make you into a real life hero by helping a child grow and develop into an emotionally healthy adult. Giving of your time can be more important than giving money or food.
Or you might prefer coaching a youth sports team, mentoring in the school, or coordinating after-school activities at the local community center or library. There are opportunities everywhere.
Not into actually being with kids? There are still ways to touch their lives. Make fleece blankets for children experiencing trauma by helping with (or starting) a local chapter of Project Linus. Handy with knitting or crochet? Make caps for newborns at a hospital's maternity ward, layette sets for newborns of the mothers living in poverty. Provide clothing and shoes for children in a local homeless shelter. [Yes, there are homeless families with children in need.]
Be creative. Come up with ways to help children in need that fit who you are, who you want to be come. You don't have to pretend to be a hero like The Hulk or even wear a cape. You can get angry about children being in need and turn into a real, live hero. What need will you meet in your neighborhood this week?
Kid President is having a little fun with Tom Hanks and we have a look at how to be a hero.
There are lots of ways to be a hero. You can even save lives without risking much of anything but a few dollars. But a true hero would sacrifice, so what keeps us from giving MORE? We don't identify with the person in need. Maybe they don't seem real to us. Or maybe they don't look like us. Or maybe we don't believe what we are told about the need. Maybe we only hear about them but don't have a depiction of them, a photo for instance. Maybe we think of them as the unnamed poor so something. For whatever reason, we don't really connect with the person in need in any way and that gives us permission to give less, if at all. We are indifferent. The need is somewhere far away and doesn't touch us at all. There is no advantage to us if we give more. We don't worry about those in need, lose sleep over them, or spend much time thinking about them. We just basically don't care enough. The responsibility for helping is diffuse. That is, there are lots of other people who know about the need and we let them be responsible for helping. We let them help. We figure we aren't responsible for others and that our part won't be missed or needed. Our sense of fairness kicks in and we don't want to feel like we are doing more than our fair share. Why should I help more than others? The use of money undermines the best and noblest in human relationships. We would gladly DO something for someone, like deliver food to the food pantry or the free lunch kitchen before we'd really sacrifice a sizable amount of money for them. Money has a way of separating us. When I am collecting money to buy coats for the elderly poor on the Indian Reservation there are always people who offer to give me an old coat in good condition but not willing to donate any money to buy new ones and have them sent. I've found that it costs nearly as much to ship a used coat as it does to send a new one that I don't have to ship myself. Yet no one offers to donated even the amount I'd spend on shipping their used coat! Money enhances individualism and diminishes communal motivation. We must be more caring to overcome the things that influence us to give less, to help less, if we want to be heroes. Did you identify with any of these reasons for not giving more? What are your thoughts?
So, you identify suffering in the world. What have you done to help those that suffer? Come on, you must have done something. Have you done more than think about it? Have you looked for ways you can help?
If you truly want to be a hero, you have the capacity to make a difference to alleviate the suffering in some measure. What can you do now?
Feeling the need is more than you can help alone? How about joining with others trying to help? Or invite friends and families and other groups to help with you.
Tell me what you want to do and I'll try to help you find a way to do it. Or ask other folks for ideas.
So, you see a need that you care about. The next step is to DO something to fill that need. And there are plenty of needs to choose from. But pick one that tugs at your heart, because you need passion to make a real difference.
You may feel passionately about people living in extreme poverty, about starving children, about people trapped in violent settings, about children dying unnecessarily of preventable diseases, about people without clean drinking water, about girls forced into genital mutilation, about boys being stolen to be soldiers in terrorist armies, about people freezing to death during the winter, about people made homeless by war or other violence. There are so many more causes you might choose from.
Don't become overwhelmed by the number of needs in the world. You can't fix everything. And, on your own, you may not be able to fix anything. But joining with others you can save numerous lives.Where will/have you begin/begun?
Personally, I address several needs. I donate blood as often as I can. That costs me nothing but a few minutes a month. And I know that access to blood transfusions when life depends on it is a life-saving act.
I also address poverty by donating to KIVA. It is an organization that makes micro-loans to people in need of a bit of money to start or expand their small business in poor countries. The borrowers get the money interest free and pay it back in small increments. When the money is paid back the donor can choose to loan it to another person who wants to work their way out of poverty. My gift goes on and on.
Another of my passions is the poverty in our own country on Indian Reservations. Once I'd seen the depth of poverty in S. Dakota's Rose Bud and Pine Ridge Reservations I was determined to do what I could to help. Each winter I ask my friends and family to donate money for items for the elderly poor on the Rose Bud Reservation to help them survive the bitter winter there. And at the end of summer I collect money to send school supplies for the children whose families can't afford to provide them.
These are easy enough for me. I don't really feel any of it is much of a sacrifice. Sometimes the money for the elderly there is a challenge, but I have never done without anything I needed by sending it. You see, like the example of saving the child in the fish pond in my last blog, I have all my basic needs met and can afford to give up some of the wants when I see a need.
I give to other causes throughout the year to a lesser degree. There are always people who need and deserve help. So when I can, I give to those as well. But as I explore this issue and look at what I have in my life, all the basic needs filled in my life and many wants besides, I think i can do more.
Because of my age and health I'm no longer able to do much physical help, and I regret that. I've had some wonderfully fulfilling experiences doing for others what they couldn't do for themselves. But now my physical contributions are much smaller - like crocheting hats for newborns in Honduras and grocery-bag-sleeping mats for the homeless who live on the land or the streets locally. I do mending for folks who can't do it for themselves. But I want to do more. Do you have ideas for me? I'd appreciate suggestions.
In a way, this blog is something I do to help others. My mission is to make a positive difference in the world and to help others do so as well. I'd appreciate your questions and/or feedback on what you are, or want to be, doing to change the world. Maybe another reader needs to know your ideas and suggestions.