I love stories about people who are really making a difference. We all want to be reminded that humans can and still do incredible things. We want to know that for every tragic or evil thing we hear of, good and right are fighting back. It’s energizing to see people making radical moves and thinking up innovative ideas that are changing the world as we know it. It seems simple really; identify a need, match it up with your skill and go to town. When I hear these stories, I feel inspired.
And then I feel paralyzed. Why aren’t I out there rescuing people from sex-trafficking? Or starting a non-profit to feed the homeless? My life is nearly half over and I haven’t yet made my great contribution to society. I get overwhelmed and can feel guilty for not doing enough. Like maybe I’m missing the boat on the great big world-changing thing that God needs me to do. My inspiration can turn quickly to comparison and we all know that plague just kills.
Big and innovative are so important, but they aren’t the only ways to change the world. Sometimes all it takes to be a world changer is to pay attention to the good that is happening around you and join it.
More often than not, impact comes through groups of people working together. I have learned that I operate best as part of a team. I come up with better ideas, get more accomplished and see faster results when I am not flying solo. I’m more of a joiner than an initiator (or a developer rather than an activator for you Strengths Finder people). I get overwhelmed with insurmountable tasks and the safety of a team helps me come alive. The best part of the camp job I had for over 10 years was that I got to be on a team. Together we dreamt up much better plans than I could have come up with on my own. And then we got to watch it unfold, solve problems and celebrate the outcome together.
I might not be starting organizations and fighting crime, but I want to be part of something good.
About a year ago, we found some people doing some great work in Mexico and we decided to join. Jose Luis & Cindy Pesina and their church have truly become bright spots in their community. Last spring I wrote about our trip to work with them in my post “I See a White Butterfly” and the ways it inspired my family to make going to Mexico a regular rhythm in our lives.
When we arrived last year, my then 4 year old son immediately saw beauty in this vacant garbage lot and it caused me to see Mexico through his eyes. Little did we know what other people were planning and working toward and how we would get to be part of this beautiful project.
This transformation was over the course of 10 months and many groups of people contributed. My husband took a group of Junior Highers down a couple of months after I took the photo on the left. They worked alongside the Mexican people from the church to do the initial clearing of the lot. Other groups came throughout the year and built a fence, painted, spread sand, donated and hauled playground equipment, painted an incredible mural, etc. Last month my family and I (with yet another group of people) got to return to the lot to put some finishing touches on it. We spread another layer of sand and planted “flowers” in painted tires.
These days, this corner lot is a bright spot. It’s full of life instead of garbage. Kids are playing in a safe and beautiful place, the community is bonding and the neighborhood feels pride in what they have helped create. Things I regularly take for granted.
There are millions of ways to change the world. Start something new or join someone who is already doing something valuable. Each one of us has a gift, a resource, a heart or an idea to contribute. Even us “joiners” can be part of changing the world.