What can I, an unqualified individual with no connections to money, politicians, or any form of “power” in general, do to help change the world and contribute something of value?
In the face of what seems like a never-ending cycle of crime after crime and senseless violence, how do you keep hope alive as a single individual? How do you keep from feeling utterly powerless? How can you contribute something to the world to help turn the situation around?
I’m a very impatient person. The only time I have any patience is when I’m with my students, oddly enough. But otherwise, I want a nice big red button that I could push to resolve things right away. I remember when I first started blogging back in college and I wrote about the same exact thing. Even then my urge to contribute something grand and great to the world was burning and all-consuming.
I dreamed of doing great things to help bring about peace in the world. For years I’ve felt that my goal is to do something huge like writing books, lecturing, being a renowned educator, constantly sought after for advice from countries around the globe on how to reform their education systems.
And now here I am, teaching English as a conversation assistant. I think you can imagine the tone of voice I’m saying that in. The reason I am a staunch believer in the value of education is because you are literally raising the future, and helping to foster these individuals to be joyful, yes, and to also be critical thinkers, so that eventually our world, little by little, becomes a better place. However, I can’t help but feel that I am contributing very little as a mere conversation assistant. What life skills or critical thinking skills can I possibly teach to my 300 students that I see one hour, once a week? What values am I imparting if my classes consist of us learning vocabulary for clothing or winter?
Needless to say as the value of what I am contributing to the world diminishes, my worry and guilt deepens. What is it that I’m doing, exactly? Here I am, enjoying the benefits and blessings of a great life with friends, a healthy family, living in a beautiful new city, pursuing my dreams to travel and write…and what am I giving back? Twelve hours a week at a high school where I see half of my students only once a month?
Then I read this…
“Kosen-rufu (world peace) is not somewhere far off. It lies within our own lives, in our families, in our relationships with neighbors, in our circle of fellow members. That’s where we must build a model for kosen-rufu.” -Daisaku Ikeda, The New Human Revolution, vol 26, chp 4
“Victory is not decided in merely a year or two. It’s a lifelong process. With that in mind, there’s no need to try to look impressive or try to be something you’re not. You can just be your true self.” Daisaku Ikeda, The New Human Revolution, vol 26, chp 4
That’s the key isn’t it?
It’s not about doing something grand that makes the covers of newspapers and magazines, lands you on television and gets the President of the USA calling to congratulate you. No. It’s about what you do on a daily basis in your immediate environment that has the most impact on the world around you. How can we expect to achieve peace around the world when it is not in our immediate environments? In our very own communities?
Every moment of our day, every interaction we have with the people around us, we can contribute something of value. Most of the crimes committed, such as the terrifying wave of school shootings in the USA, are committed by people who feel at a loss, overwhelmed, alone…
It’s not to say that the majority of us are lost souls wandering around, but I think it’s safe to say that everyone likes to feel listened to, important, cared for. Isn’t that the hook, line and sinker of social media like Facebook? Everyone wants to feel valued, and it’s up to us to provide that for each other on a life-to-life, heart-to-heart basis.
So, while I may not be able to get to know my students as well as I would like, I can put 100% of my life into the few moments that I do have with them. For me, it doesn’t like enough from the outside, but for them, teenagers who feel uncomfortable, shy, not confident, etc., maybe those two minutes that I take to sincerely listen to their stories about how they love baseball, or want to travel to NY, or buy that playstation 3, will have a deeper impact on them than I can imagine. And with those tiny drops…they add up yeah, but more importantly, they contribute to a more solid and profound variation of peace, as opposed to that kind of short-lived peace brought about by hasty, seemingly great, solutions.
I may not be super qualified, I may not be able to change the world single handedly, and maybe I don’t have enough experience to put on paper to be called to lecture at a conference on education, but I damn well have something of value to contribute in my own way. Maybe my victories won’t consist of getting the Nobel Peace Prize, but that doesn’t make them any less important, or cause them to have any less impact. We can all contribute to peace in our own way. We just have to believe that we can.