(written shortly after September 11th, 2001) | » La Versione Italiana
There is, of course, no end to the magnificence and horror in the human drama. Across the continents, humanity rises to every challenge, sinks to any depth. We cherish each heartbeat and murder at will. We bless nature’s miracles, yet trash the hood.
We accept this polarity as human nature and we move on in our ‘glassy essence’. All the while our righteousness lords over other life; yet we beseech gods for mercy. Our angers flare to violence and we demand justice. We covet ceaselessly, give generously. Our wallowing is legion, yet we take art and science to Olympian heights.
So how do we best come to terms with this ‘marble and mud’ of our existence, most immediately in the glare of last Tuesday’s horrific assault on civilization? One answer is to pay finer attention to two questions: “How deeply do I care about our common future? How do I actually make a positive difference?”
Ben Okri, of Nigeria, of Africa, of Earth, observes: “There was not one among us who looked forward to being born. We disliked the rigours of existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of the world, the labyrinths of love, the ignorance of parents, the fact of dying, and the amazing indifference of the living amidst the simple beauties of the universe. We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see.”
We each need to shout humbly and confidently to Mr. Okri: “Yes! I hear you. I feel that indifference and fear it. I must care as deeply as my time permits, my breath testament to my opportunity. My life must count!”
Of course, it already counts: we change the world everyday. Just by engaging in life, we make a difference. As a gregarious species that enjoys getting along well, most of those differences are positive, driven by our intelligence, our natural empathy for others, our desire to laugh, and the myriad satisfactions of helping make things better.
Even when, or especially when, crisis intervenes in our life, we can create moments of grace, moments that reveal a wide range of selfless participation with each other, including not least acts of incredible courage and sacrifice.
Though we can’t change human nature, we can change human nurture. Most easily, we can pay closer attention to our moral compass, to our interactions each day – and rarely do we need someone else to tell us how.
It comes down to reconsidering the ethical stands we take with each other and with all life. We might not have the moral vision of Vaclav Havel or the moral courage of Nelson Mandela, but we can foster ethical awareness and leadership in ourselves.
Without presumption or attitude, but merely to ameliorate, we each must be a moral guardian of this homearth. Unless we learn to respect and care for each other as neighbors, unless we come to terms with the increasing vulnerability of life on Earth, true progress will remain an illusion, mired in the quicksand of greed, violence and selfish intent.
Are we watching our lives in a movie, sitting too close to the screen? Do we see only red and yellow pixels, flashed by mongers of news or commerce? Are we becoming too numb to absorb a larger reality?
So many people live in relentless poverty. So many are unwilling refugees. So many suffer needlessly, die as children. Each one is our neighbor, born free, deserving human rights. They must be invisible no longer. Every danger, every loss, every injustice in their lives affects us all.
Think of those known and unknown who sacrificed for you. Think of those who inspire you. Use the powerful images that work for you. One of mine is the tuxedoed cellist, Vedran Smailovic, in Sarajevo in 1992. He braved sniper fire in the marketplace each day for 22 days to play Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor to honor the 22 people who were killed there by mortar fire while they were queuing for bread.
Positive change is simply the currency and responsibility of individuals, of you and me. This is our saving grace. We just need to be even more attentive and curious, even more on the lookout for that one, tiny, quick, wonderfully private, unnoticed moment when you alone create a smile, lend a hand, unfurl a brow, still a cry, or calm a nerve in someone else.
That’s power! In fact that’s humanity’s most powerful force for positive change – and you can do it with a wink, as quick as the beat of a butterfly’s wing. Who knows what transpires from those moments; but it does indeed change the world.
It also changes us, for it is an inward flow, not just outward. The more positive energy you give, the more you get; it’s the same need, the same compliment, as breathing in and breathing out.
So breathe this earth! Soar its surface! Know its people! Engage this planet, your fragile home, and all its sentient beings in the essential connection of good intent.
~ Tony Balis, September 24, 2001
Many people believe that they don’t have what it takes to make a difference to the world. They believe only people like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and the likes, are capable of making a difference.
The truth is, every one of us is put in this world to contribute and make a difference to the world in our own unique way. It need not be anything out of the world. It just needs to be something you do with the intention of ‘doing good’.
The following is a guide as to how small people like us can make a difference to the world.
How To Make a Difference
1. It Need Not Be an Enormous Task
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa
You already have what it takes to make the world a better place. Making a difference to the world may seem like an enormous task, but it is in fact the collective effort of everyone to make small contributions with a lot of heart.
The size of the contribution is not what matters most. The key here is to have the heart to do it.
2. Start Now
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
There is no one best time to start to make a difference to the world. You don’t need to wait till you have the time to share some love; you don’t have to wait till you make more money to share a slice of bread. Little efforts count, and you can start making small contributions today.
3. Your Contribution is Never Too Small
“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” – Author Unknown
If you think that everything has been taken care of by somebody and your contribution is not going to make much of a difference, then you’re wrong. Can you imagine if everyone else starts to think the same way?
In fact, it is our responsibility to seek ways to contribute, large and small. You don’t have to be concerned you’re only capable of making small contributions. What counts is the effort.
4. The Greatest Gifts of All
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
Happiness and love are the two greatest gifts you can give to the world. Too often, we’re too indulged in our own gratifications that we forget there are people in this world whom we can make a little happier and feel more loved.
As the saying goes, “To receive, you must first give.” The more you give, the more you’ll receive. Let us remind ourselves that in order to receive more happiness and love, let’s spread more of them first.
5. Empower Other People
“Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement.” – Dale Carnegie
You can change the world by helping one person at a time. One of the ways to help someone is to empower the person. But how do you empower a person? Well, one of the ways is to be generous in giving praise and encouragement instead of criticism.
By praising and encouraging the person, you’d have helped him/her to accomplish what he/she is meant to be, and that would lead to more value being added to the world.
6. Seek to Make a Long-Lasting Effect
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli
This is Mr Disraeli’s version of ‘give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’
The good that we seek to do will make more of a difference when there’s a long-lasting effect rather than a temporary effect. For example, if we make contributions to build a school, it will benefit many people for years to come.
And when more people receive education, they will in turn provide more value to the world.
7. Stop Whining and Do Something
“If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
All the whining and complaining in the world is not going to make a difference to the world. It will only drain you of your precious energy from doing things that do make a difference.
Instead of whining and complaining, seek to use the time more productively by engaging in activities that matter. When it comes to making a difference, nothing matters more than taking actions.
8. Lead the Way
“A good example has twice the value of good advice.” – Author Unknown
Other than doing things to make a difference, we should also seek to influence others to start doing things that make a difference. And the best way to convince other people is to lead by example.
Start doing whatever is within your ability today. Start showing more concern and love to the people around you. Start to make monthly donations to your favourite charity. Start putting more effort in your work to increase the value output.
Every effort counts, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. Just do something, and do something good.
Do you have other suggestions on how we can make a difference to the world? Please share them in the comment section below.
Photo by The Wandering Angel