"if you ever thought you are too small to make a difference in this world try going to bed with a mosquito" - Anita Roddick (founder of the Body Shop)
Close your eyes and think back to a time in your life when you did something great, something that made even a tiny difference in someone's life. Think of the details of that day. Did you help a person cross the road, take your sick uncle some flowers, bake some cookies for the folks at work, give someone some pocket change or stop to help someone who was having car trouble?
How did you feel? Did you feel like you had changed the world? Probably not, but in some small way you had contributed, and I 'll bet that you felt great about that act of kindness. We all have such busy lives, and we feel overwhelmed by running our own lives, so how can we possibly find time to help out other people. I find that giving really is not about not having the time to help others, because the act of walking someone across the street takes less than a minute. It seems to me that we are so busy rushing around that we do not notice the opportunity to lend a hand. Slow down just for a moment when someone needs your help, try to remember that you may be the person who needs to ask for help one day.
I work with young people, and they consistently tell me that they don't know what to do with their lives. Today's youth grow up hearing that the future will be an environmental disaster area. It is easy to imagine how anyone can feel helpless, like our personal actions do not impact the world. This belief that we cannot do anything to shape our destiny scares me far more than the threat of global warming. The lack of hope represents the death of our dreams. Young people today are overwhelmed by choices, yet we seem to have lost the ability to dream, to seek out our passions, and to strive fearlessly down the paths that will make our dreams come true.
We must remember that fun is the secret to life. Huck Finn taught us that lesson as he convinced his young friends to paint a fence, but in the process we learned that it wasn't work if you were having fun. Our notion of 'work' used to involve bringing food to the table. In our modern world, 'work' has taken on a whole new form, a form that is more about making money than feeding our families. Why is it that we care first about making money, and second about our happiness and dreams? Huck Finn would be laughing at us all, working so hard at things we do not love, without even understanding why we do it.
Think again of that time that you did a good deed, when you 'acted' to help someone else. Imagine what effort it would take you to do a good deed like that every day. What would happen if every single person had to do one unselfish thing every day before they could eat supper. What would that world look like? Would our economy collapse? Would there be an obvious change in your community? Think of the flowers that would be planted, the smiles people would share, the help that you would have to paint your fence. In the past, the people of a community needed each other and they helped each other all the time. These small acts of good will are contagious and really do make a difference.
Working with youth from all over the world, I have felt a simultaneous sense of despair and hope from our future generation. They see potential destruction looming on the horizon, while understanding that they have a greater ability than ever in history to control the future. Young people ask me, what can I possibly do? My answer to them is to follow your dreams, and join forces with others who share your dream. Find what it is that you believe in, and contribute to making the world a better place. Remember to always have fun and work will never be work. Making a difference in the world is really that simple, do something that you love that contributes to making your community a better place.
To give you an example of how this might look, I asked myself these same questions, and these were my answers. The dream jobs I would want to do right now are:
- Field Biologist
- Kayak Guide
So I decided to do all of these things in one way or another and that is honestly my dream job that I am creating. My desire to create this dream job has led me to create an organization called 'Young Energy'. This project is one of the most energizing things I have ever done in my life and it is definitely not what I would call 'work'. Young Energy is program to help people learn how to save energy and money while reducing the impact we have on the environment. The program simply offers solutions to people who already want to do what they can to help the environment, but really do not know what to do beyond household recycling. Running this program is allowing me to fulfill my dreams while doing many of the jobs listed above, and giving me a chance to 'make a difference'.
There are so many choices, but what is really important is that we feel really good about what we do. I am proud of my work. This sense of pride comes from having done a good job, and from knowing that I made a contribution. These two things are not that complicated, so why is it that very few people love their jobs. Remember that you too could be doing your dream job tomorrow, the only thing that is stopping you is fear. Take that first step, I promise you that it is much easier than you imagine it to be.
It is the sum of all the simple everyday choices that we make that change the world. Do something nice for someone today, it will come back to you. When it does you will know that you changed the world, and that you can continue to do so every day.
If you are interested in learning more about Young Energy, check us out at: www.youngenergy.org.
Scott is a mechanical engineer who cares about the degradation of the environment and believes that we need to find new ways of enjoying our lives while consuming fewer resources. He has lived in the rainforest, taught environmental education to kids in India, and has recently returned from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johanessburg, South Africa. His company Sinclair Environmental Solutions is dedicated towards finding solutions that meet the needs of the modern individual while considering the needs of the natural world. He believes that there are many paths in life, and that by shifting the value structure of society to incorporate the preservation of the environment, we will discover a new way of living that is richer and more fulfilling than it was in the past.