“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
This is one of the most inspiring quotes I know. But it’s also a huge challenge. How can I be the change I want to see, when the world’s problems seem so overwhelming and I am just one person with no special talents, power or contacts?
I want to see a world of peace, happiness, love and joy. I want to see a world where there is abundance for everyone and no one goes hungry or is in fear. I want to see a world where nature is taken care of rather than destroyed and depleted. How can I possibly make any of those things happen? Well, I suppose Gandhi is telling me that I must live by the rules I would like everyone to live by.
I can see that this won’t be easy. If I believe the world would be a better place if we all took care of each other, if everyone was treated equally and fairly and if the planet was treated as the precious and unique life-giving force that it is, then I will have to put my money where my mouth is. After all, it’s no good complaining that the world is unfair and that nothing will ever change and then not bothering to try to change myself.
So if I want to see a world that is peaceful, then I have to make my world peaceful. I must attempt to create peace in my home, with my family and friends, with the people I work with and the people I meet every day.
To do this, I must always speak kindly, never using words that hurt others. I must stop making judgements about others and accept that everyone is doing the best they can in the circumstances that they find themselves in. This means not being impatient with the person in front of me that holds up the queue and not getting angry at the driver who cuts me up. I must be more understanding of others, listen more to what other people tell me and be slower to jump in with my ideas and solutions. I must be more encouraging when people tell me their ideas. I could help others more. I could share only peaceful news on Facebook and Twitter.
If I want to see a fairer world, I can make choices with how I spend my money. I can choose to only trade with ethical banks and businesses. I could choose to shop locally rather than with multinationals. I could avoid companies that exploit people and the resources of other countries. I can choose fairly traded products and handcrafted items and I can support charities and political organisations that are working towards a fairer world. This won’t be easy and it will quite possibly cost me more, in time and money, but if I really want to be the change then it is the only way. And I can be grateful for all that I have and never take it for granted.
If I want the world to be a happier place, I could try to create a little more happiness in my corner of the world. I can choose to spread negativity or instead be a positive force in the world. I can repeat gossip and bad news, or I can be supportive, encouraging and non-judgemental. I can do random acts of kindness like buying a stranger coffee or volunteering in a soup kitchen. I can listen when people are sad. I can tell people how wonderful I think they are and boost their self-esteem. I can tell stories that empower myself and others rather than give in to hopelessness and helplessness.
If I am concerned about the plight of the earth, on whom we all depend, I can buy less, buy food that has not been over-packaged, recycle, buy clothes and household items in charity shops or on eBay. I can drive less and walk more I can use less water, electricity and gas. I can think twice before buying anything at all that comes from a natural resource that is not being taken care of. I can give to earth friendly charities and help out at local environmental projects
This is quite a challenge, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be hypocritical of me to complain about others: big businesses, politicians and multibillionaires, unless I am doing the very best I can to make this world a better place. It’s easy to say that others should be doing it, that billionaires should give more to charity and that politicians should be fair and world leaders should stop their war mongering, but if I’m not giving to charity, being kind in all my interactions and treating the planet well, then I am as bad as they are. Right?