Last month I had lunch with Jim, an old friend I hadn’t seen in many years. We spent some time catching up on each others’ lives. Then our conversation drifted to the state of the world today and what we can do about it, individually and in groups. How much responsibility do each of us have to make the world a better place?
Jim is successful in his work, which he loves. It requires him to interact often with the public. He’s great with people of all kinds, and sincerely cares about them.
In the restaurant, throughout our lunch, folks Jim knew passed by our table. He invariably asked each of them “How are you?” It wasn’t an empty, meaningless question, as it often is when people greet one another. Jim really wanted to know how that person was doing. And they responded warmly.
Jim didn’t talk about himself, only them. He offered them words of comfort if they were going through a tough time. Or words of congratulation if they were doing well. All of them walked away from our table with a lighter, more joyful step. Jim was amazing — what a gift!
After the first flurry of folks had passed, we resumed our lunch and conversation. And we batted around the question, “How can we make the world a better place?”
Jim felt he wasn’t doing enough. He said he needed to do something more meaningful in addition to his current work.
I disagreed with him. I pointed out how much he’d uplifted and inspired the people who’d passed by our table. I pointed out how they smiled and glowed after their brief conversations with him. He, obviously, didn’t see that as clearly as I did.
I told Jim he was already making a huge difference in the world, simply by being himself. The inspiration and upliftment he gave those folks they would give to others. And it would ripple out from there to the world around them, as a stone thrown into a still pond creates ripples through the entire pond.
There’s a saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” Jim was doing that, and doing it extremely well. But I couldn’t convince him he was already making a positive difference in the world. “There must be more I can do,” he said. “I — we all — have a responsibility to do more.”
Does this sound like you?
Responsibility — what a “loaded” word that is for many humans. It’s often loaded with a sense of heaviness, even dread.
Think about it. How do you feel in your gut when you use or hear the word “responsibility?”
Many of you feel that sense of heaviness and dread. There’s little or no joy attached to your responsibilities. It’s as if you came here to this lifetime to take on all those burdensome responsibilities. Fun and joy went out the window.
Today your so-called “authorities” (i.e., governments, teachers, churches, environmental groups, family even) are urging you to accept your “responsibility.”
What responsibility? Well, to begin with, your responsibility to them. And your responsibility to make the world a better place. It’s your duty. You must do it — or else.
Or else what? Well, often “they” say if you don’t do something, the world is doomed to decay and destruction.
We respond to that with one word: Nonsense!
Your world is not on a path to hell. Your human race is not on a path to hell. You individually are not on a path to hell.
If there is one sure path to what you might consider hell, it’s this incessant overuse, misuse, and downright wrong use of the whole idea of responsibility. Your primary responsibility — first, last, and always — is to yourselves. No exceptions.
We can hear the words of protest rising up — “But, Spirit, how can we make the world a better place if we put ourselves first?”
Friends, putting yourselves first is the only way you can make the world a better place.
When you follow your passion, do what you love, genuinely care about people (including you) — as John’s friend Jim is doing — you are making the world a better place.
You cannot make the world a better place by protesting and resisting whatever — war, drugs, sex, crime, governments — you name it.
You can make the world a better place only by working for good, whatever you believe that to be. As your beloved Mother Teresa said, she would not protest against war, but she would march for peace.
You can all march for peace by first creating that peace within yourselves. Then every human life you touch, from your inner place of peace, will be transformed, even if only a little. That little transformation will ripple out, as in John’s analogy, like a stone thrown into a still pond. Until it becomes a huge global and universal tidal wave of transformation.
That is the power — the vast, incredible power — each of you, standing alone, possess.
If you want to make the world a better place, first make your world a better place. Bloom where you are planted. Then the whole world will bloom into a truly new age of peace and joy.