In my last post, I talked about viewing the world as being better or worse than in the past. I encourage people to get beyond the victim mentality of letting politicians determine our world, or terrorists, or a boss in a job we hate. We determine our reality, not anyone else. There may be some factors beyond our control, but most are not. Rewrite the script of negativity in your life to be one of hope and love.
“But Irene,” you’re saying, “I can’t go fight Osama bin Laden, and I can’t go and feed children in Africa, and I don’t have time or I’m afraid to go and lobby to support gay marriage, or end animal cruelty, or any of a million causes that I think can make the world better. I’m just one person. What can I do?”
Let’s start with Osama bin Laden. During the holidays I went to see the new 3-D film of “A Christmas Carol.” I enjoyed it immensely—the animation was spectacular—but had I seen an old black and white film of the story, I would have enjoyed it anyway. Why? Because deep in my heart not only do I believe, but I solemnly know, that like Ebenezer Scrooge, people are capable of change, and that a little love can change the world. When I expressed to people how much I enjoyed the film, one negative person replied that he had nothing good to say about “A Christmas Carol.” In fact, he said it was “dangerous” and when I pressed him why he thought so, he said that it creates the illusion that evil people can change on their own without us having to fight them.
Fight? It’s almost a word vanished from my vocabulary. I don’t fight bad people. I’m not going to go fight Osama. Nor am I likely to go find him in his cave and preach love and kindness to him. But what I can do is give love to the people around me. Look at all the Muslims in our culture who suffered after 9/11 because of his actions—or did they suffer because of how we chose to react? Many people chose instead to protect and look out for their Muslim friends and neighbors. Rather than let Osama think white Christian Americans are evil, we can fight that viewpoint by loving our Muslim neighbors.
Do you need to go to India and become the next Mother Teresa? No. If you want to, I’ll support you 110%, but you can do Mother Teresa’s work right here at home. Just visit your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter or simply say a kind word to someone. People might be starving in India, but they are starving in the U.S. too. Don’t forget that Mother Teresa famously said that the Western World is most starved for love. When people offered her money, she told them instead to go out and find someone who felt he was alone and show that person he was not.
My point—if you don’t like the world you see, change it. If you want to be an activist, go for it. But maybe all it takes is smiling at people. When people walk past you with their eyes to the ground, make a point of saying, “Hello. How are you?”
I had a friend who told me about his experience when he first moved away from home and to a bigger city where he didn’t know anyone. He said it was three weeks before a cashier in a store actually said, “How are you today?” to him. He remembers how his heart leapt up within him that someone actually cared enough to ask. It had been a lonely hard three weeks in a new place. That right there proves to me that Mother Teresa was right.
We don’t have to do giant things. We can start with simple things—a kind word, a compliment, a helping hand. Don’t be a victim of others’ negativity. Instead help others cease from being victims of negativity and fear simply by reaching out with a little love. It will make a difference.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Irene Watson, MA, is author of The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference, and co-editor of The Story that Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation, and Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers. She is a workshop leader, managing editor of Reader Views, and president of a non-profit Higher Power Foundation. Irene lives next to Barton Creek in Austin, TX, with her husband Robert.