Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the crispness in the air, the colors, and the coziness of harvest time. However, this year my favorite season coincides with a presidential campaign season in full swing. Regardless of whether you find the political frenzy exhausting or exhilarating, I think a lot of people can relate to a feeling a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of the problems in our world. How can we, little as we are, really change anything? I came to a very freeing, and surprisingly simple, realization a few years back. You and I can change the world, simply by changing our little corners of it.
No one person, no thirty people, in fact, can rescue our ailing world community. In a very real sense, however, each of us has been entrusted with a small piece of the fabric that makes it up. Some of our pieces of the fabric are very small indeed. Others possess a much wider sphere of influence (whether they like it or not). No matter how big or small your corner of the world is, however, it is the only “world” you are responsible for changing.
So, instead of focusing on the huge web of problems and the “right” ways to fix them, here are some ways to transform the little piece of the puzzle God has entrusted to you:
- Pray. More and better. Wait, wasn’t I just talking about “rolling up your sleeves” and changing the world? Here’s the thing. There is so much frenzied activity in our society, even if it’s only the frenzy of thoughts and words, that before anything can really be done we need to stop. Center. And seek God. All our actions must begin and end in Him.
- Love your neighbor. I’m talking about your spouse, your children, your parents, your close friends that you take for granted, the guy who cut you off, the rude checkout girl … I think you get where I’m going with this. This comes before volunteering for a reason. In my experience, it’s much harder to love the people in my daily life than to love the people I’m helping as a volunteer. We may constantly fall short, but this is absolutely crucial to changing your corner of the world.
- Do small things with love. With St. Therese’s feast day right around the corner, it seems especially appropriate to focus on this idea. What are you doing today? Whether it’s working your 8-5, picking up after your kids, or running errands, do each task for love of God, for love of neighbor, or both. This takes practice too, but it will transform your piece of the world if by doing nothing else than changing you.
- Perform Works of Mercy. This could be through your church or through a secular organization, or just on your own. But the point is to reach outside your comfort zone and set aside some time on a regular basis to help meet the needs of your broader community. Pray about where God is calling you and follow His lead. If you don’t hear His voice, then just pick something and dive in!
- Develop your talents. Hmmm, this might be an unexpected one, but I believe it’s important. As Christians, we are vessels for Christ to work through. At the same time, we’re each unique and blessed with personalities and gifts that make us who we are. I like to think of each of us as stained glass windows. The light that shines through us is Christ, but it looks subtly different depending on the glass it’s shining through. I’m pretty sure God works like this on purpose. You may already know what your gifts are, or you might have to do some exploring to figure that out. Regardless, once you’ve identified your gifts, pray about how you can use them to help others. It may be as simple as bringing joy to your family and friends with your knack for creativity. You might make people’s lives easier through your clear thinking and organizational skills. Regardless of what they are, the key is to take time to develop your talents and share them. Generously!