“Great acts are made up of small deeds.” – Lao Tzu
There’s a lot of bad shit happening in the world today. And fixing every bad thing is a daunting concept. You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how to achieve world peace, or feed every hungry person on the planet, or find a fix for global warming. But that’s a pretty tall order, you have to admit. As individuals, just you or just me, it is hard to affect change. Why is this?
It’s societal, for one thing. We live in America, specifically North America, where there is a spectacular array of excess everywhere we look. We have so much that sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are those who don’t have enough. I don’t mean people in tiny little countries halfway around the globe, but people right here under our own noses.
Here’s a stunning fact that I learned in school last year: Did you realize that one in five American children regularly go hungry? Yep, that’s right. Right here in the land of plenty one kid in every five will go to bed on an empty stomach tonight. Think about that the next time you drive through McDonald’s and you can’t decide whether or not to Supersize your order.
Ignorance plays a part, too. I have read enough scientific data from enough reputable sources that I don’t question the reality of climate change, and that human actions are driving it. But there are plenty of people out there who think the whole idea is ridiculous, that there’s plenty of breathable air and potable water available, and that anyone who’s worrying about climate change is just a nervous Nelly.
Some folks don’t want to hear about world peace. What happens in other places is none of our concern. And besides, everything here in the good ole’ US of A is just peachy! No wars here on our shores. Unless class war counts. And of course, that’s only a myth dreamed up by the liberal media. Isn’t it?
You can think on it for a while. I’ll wait.
Anyway, call me crazy, but I am one of those bleeding-heart liberals who is foolish enough to believe that people, by and large, are good and decent and moral. It’s hard to read the news these days and not be overwhelmed by all the bad in the world, but maybe that’s just because good things don’t garner as much attention. I’m convinced there is still plenty of good out in the world, we just don’t hear about it.
As I said earlier, it’s hard for one person to affect change. But it doesn’t mean that one person has no power at all. Each of us has the capability to make the world a little better, even if we can only make it better for one other person in some small way.
I often find myself doing a bit of reflection and trying to determine what good, if any, I’m doing these days. I’m not in a position to make any grand gestures, but I can always do a little good. And a little good is, well, good! It may not fix a problem, but it can make things just a tiny bit better.
I’ve found that it is oddly comforting, in times of uncertainty, to take some small, but positive, action. I’m not powerful enough, or wealthy enough, or smart enough to have all the answers, but there are things I can do to improve my little part of the world, things that don’t take a huge amount of time or money. And that’s good, because I don’t have much of either.
Do you want to take some small action? Here are a few ideas. These are things I do regularly, and you can do them too, or something that appeals to your own interests:
Give food – Giving to a charity doesn’t demand that you open up your wallet or your checkbook, although that’s a great way to help. You can also make in-kind donations. This works for me because I can do it a little at a time. I can buy a few extra non-perishable food items each week when I go buy my groceries, and I can set them aside and when I have a few bags filled up, I’ll drop them off at my area food bank. And while I’m shopping, I’ll buy an extra bag of cat chow or a few cans of dog food or some cleaning products, and when THAT bag fills up, I’ll drop it off at the animal shelter around the corner.
Give clothing – Many charitable organizations have thrift stores nowadays where you donate your clothes or household items and they sell them and use the profits to support local programs. This is a great way to divest yourself of things you no longer need. You get a tax deduction, and you’re helping someone else out. There are other options too. Recently I gathered up several suits and dresses that I hadn’t worn in a long time, and donated them to a local organization that helps underprivileged women learn office skills and find jobs. Each program graduate gets to choose two dresses and a pair of shoes from their “Success Store”, so she’ll have something nice to wear to job interviews. Makes perfect sense to me.
Give time – There is no shortage of excellent charitable and social programs who could use you for a few hours a week, if you’ve got the time to spare. Help build houses with Habitat for Humanity, deliver food for Meals on Wheels, go to the Humane Society and help walk and socialize dogs. Volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. A few hours of your time will make a difference for an organization and the citizens it serves.
Save the Planet – Plant a tree, take the bus, ride a bicycle, recycle what you can, turn off excess lights, make your next car a hybrid (or at least not a Hummer!) Even if you’re a climate change denier, and you don’t think any of these things will help the planet, ALL of them will benefit you or your budget directly. What’s the harm?
Vote – Everyone should register to vote. It’s not only your right, but it’s your duty. Know your elected representatives, and if they’re not doing their jobs, get rid of the bastards and elect someone else. My only caveat to this is that you become a well-informed voter. If you don’t understand the issues, search for answers. They’re right there in front of you – open a newspaper, or a news magazine. Look for a variety of opinions. Educate yourself! If you don’t like what’s going on in the world, don’t just sit around and whine about it. It’s incumbent upon you to get involved.
This is just a start. I’m sure you can come up with some ideas of your own. Who says you can’t make the world a little better? Go do it! The Foo Fighters would approve!