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Look to your Heart if you want a Better World

When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. ~ Shunryu Suzuki

Life is full of issues that puzzle us, that upset us and that we desperately feel a need to solve. We talk about these things all the time to anyone who will listen. We discuss things like violence among children, all forms of domestic abuse, world hunger, environmental destruction and just about any other issue you can name; but no one has any answers to solve the problems. We just keep talking and talking and rehashing old theories, and basically end up spinning our wheels and getting no where.

We all want to make the world a better place to live, both for ourselves and for future generations. We all truly want to find the solutions to all the problems that are snags in making things better. And, in the true style of a society that has been trained to hone in on the 30-second sound bite, we want instant solutions. What we'd really like is for someone to grab a magic wand, wave it really fast over the whole world and then have everything be perfect forevermore.

However, the problems of the world often can't be solved that quickly or easily. For one thing, they are just simply too big. For another, they involve far too many people. And some of them are just plain difficult to figure out in terms of saving a whole world from whatever the problem at hand may be.

So you ask, what do we do? Should we just give up and call it quits, letting the world as we know it continue on a path of self-destruction until it just totally disintegrates? It's obvious that that is not an acceptable answer for any of us. That means we have to look at these world issues from a totally different perspective.

You often hear people talking about how one person can't really make a difference in this world. The old phrase is, "You can't fight city hall!" And that same attitude applies very often to the problems we see in the world. It's all too easy to be upset by them, but to convince ourselves that one person just cannot fix whatever it may be. And one person can't fix the whole world and the mess it seems to be in sometimes.

However, one person can indeed make a difference. All you have to do is think about it. The world is composed of an infinite number of human beings, and we all have the ability to help. It sounds impossible, I know, when you first hear it. But think about it for a bit.

If you saw your neighbor starving because they couldn't afford to buy food, what would you do? Would you sit by and let them starve? Or would you do whatever you could to see that they got the food they needed until they were able to provide it again for themselves? Would you cook enough extra for them yourself, as you prepare to feed your own family? Or maybe discuss the need with an organization you belong to, and make plans for each member to take a turn helping out with meals? Or would you offer to contact a program like Meals on Wheels to ensure that they get a solid meal every day? Any of these things would help your neighbor have food to eat when they otherwise might not.

What about violence among children? What would you do if you had overheard your child talking to another about someone they knew at school who was making threats to commit an act of violence? Would you sit idly by and assume it was just talk? Or would you contact school authorities? And, if you didn't get satisfaction with them, would you discuss it with the local law enforcement agencies to make them aware of a potential problem? Would you talk to the families of the kid who was making the threats? If you chose to do any of these things, you might just end up heading off a another potential incident of children in our society hurting others because they are in pain themselves.

And what about all the domestic violence that we hear is so prevalent in our society today? Suppose you hear the unmistakable sounds of fighting next door, and screams and threats being made? Would you just sit there and turn up your tv louder to drown out unpleasant sounds, or put on your headphones to your Walkman so you didn't have to listen to it? Or would you call 911? Or would you perhaps take the opportunity to slip the phone number of a shelter to the victim of what you suspect is violence when that person is alone and it would be safe to do so? While you are at it, would you also volunteer at that local shelter, or offer to be trained to man a hotline for victims who want out and don't know where to start? Would you make sure that the victim had access to the things they would need to know to help to prepare them for when the time comes that they have to get out to save their lives by making sure they knew where to get that information? Any of these things would help.

If a lake in your town had become an eyesore, and perhaps even a dangerous place, because of individuals and businesses polluting it, would you shake your head in disgust any time you saw it? Or would you gather a group of like-minded citizens together to clean it up? Or would you possibly go to your local government, and find out what regulations might apply to it, and see if there would be a way to get help to clean the debris and chemicals that had been spilled in it cleaned away? Or maybe even go to your local newspaper and ask them to do a story on it, and make people more aware of the problem and potential solutions?

If you can look inside your heart, and find a way to improve any of these situations in your own little corner of the world even just the littlest bit, then you have come a long way in understanding these problems and solving them on a world scale. If each one of us asks ourselves what we can do to help make these things better in our own backyard, and then do everything we can, one day all the backyards of the world are going to meet -- and the problems will have been solved, one at a time.

So today, as you go through your day, be mindful of the problems you see in your own neighborhood of the world. Instead of wishing you could change the whole world, start to work investigating what you can do to make your neighborhood a better place to live. Ask your neighbors, friends, church members and others you know to join in helping you. Why not even make a little joyful noise as you go about making your small corner of the world better? Spread the word. Challenge others in nearby areas to work to meet you, and then to pass that challenge on to those in their neighboring towns.

For it is not in having the answers to all the problems in the world that changes will be made. It is in knowing the answers in your own heart and living them in your own life that the solutions will become clear to you. Each of us does have the power to make the world a better place. All we have to do is listen to our hearts, and then follow them where they lead us.

Not only will we find many of the greatest problems of the world solved in this way, but we will also come to learn an even more important lesson -- the citizens of the world share the same basic needs and wants. We may voice them in different languages, but we are of the same family. What you see in your own heart is the reflection of what those around you see in theirs. And that is perhaps the most important lesson our hearts can teach us.

� Mary Lynn Hatfield