Change. It is in the air.
It could be seeing the first green shoots of the daffodils poking up through the soil.
It might have been the powerful university presentation given by an animal activist that I watched last weekend, calling for people to become aware of the cruelty that is being inflicted on living and breathing animals every single day.
Then again, it could have been the documentary Half the Sky that I also watched last weekend. A documentary based on the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by husband and wife journalists, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Both are New York Time reporters and Pulitzer Prize winners. Their efforts bring to light the very real lives and plight of women and girls in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, India, Kenya, and Somaliland. While the stories might often include very difficult issues like rape, violence, sex trafficking, slavery, abuse, genital mutilation and so on, both Nicholas and Sheryl find those who are working to change these things. They look for the stories that while sometimes hard to hear, can also be incredibly inspiring when one witnesses that there are those determined to change things for the better.
There are also all the inauguration events this weekend happening in our country's capitol. A President who won his first election based on a platform promising change will again take his presidential vows. Along with being aware of this Saturday being a National Day of Service, there is also the remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who will remembered in history as a remarkable agent of change.
I know that my own heart can grow heavy when I hear of things like sex trafficking, senseless gun violence, horrific rapes and violence, abuse and neglect of children and the list goes on. As a person who has an affinity for animals and who made the decision to eat vegan almost 5 years ago, I also feel for animals that are treated with unnecessary cruelty.
Just the other day I also watched the trailer for the film Vanishing of the Bees, which is narrated by youthful actress Ellen Page. Talk about a disturbing situation that could have dire consequences for the planet. This of course leads to environmental concerns, global warming, genetically modified foods and the list goes on and on.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by it all?
I know I have on many occasions.
I think it is common to hear of these issues in the world and for some of us there is a desire to want to help to change things for the better. We want to know how can we help? How can we make a difference?
I also think that too often we really don't know what we can do to help and we end up feeling helpless. We might be unsure of how our abilities and skills could be put to use.
The solution might be simpler than we imagine. Consider this quote by inspirational Aung San Suu Kyi, "When you feel helpless, help someone."
The answer might be for us to simplify things at first. The first step might be to take a look at our current life and identify what changes we could make in our own lives first that would empower us to more capably serve and help others.
The first set of questions to ask are: What is your relationship with yourself? Do you feel good? Are you healthy? Do you feel at peace within your own person? Are there any issues going on with you that need to be addressed first? Are there any addictions or unhealthy habits that have been adopted that you must face? Are there wounds, even childhood ones, that need to be dealt with and hopefully healed for you to become your most empowered self? Would counseling or therapy be a course of action to help you work through things?
Perhaps leaning into one's spiritual or religious practice is what one needs to get centered. It might include a meditation practice, journal writing, creative expression, painting, writing prose or poetry, sculpting, or dancing. All of these things that let you get in touch with your soul and that give you joy and instill in you a love of life, are those things that can increase your confidence and that feeling of empowerment needed to move your thoughts and wishes, and those desires to effect change, into action.
Questions regarding where you are at on the spectrum of physical, mental and emotional wellness aren't intended to make anyone feel less capable of helping others or making a difference in the world. Yet when we are coming from a place of being centered and whole in ourselves that shines through. How we are with ourselves, how we treat ourselves, affects how we in turn treat others, and is one of the most significant things we model in this world. It it the thing that most influences our children and those who are in regular contact with us.
Again as we return to the idea of keeping things simple. When you consider all the ways there are and might be to make a difference and create change in the world, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Often the first thing that comes to mind is the thing that truly resonates with your inner spirit. This might be something that will put into motion your sense of purpose or a feeling that you have a calling.
Not everyone's journey is going to include starting a non-profit to build schools for girls in Vietnam, a safe house in Cambodia for girls or a hospital in Africa. The journey may involve volunteering at the local food shelter or animal shelter. The journey might be a mom and dad raising their children to be compassionate, caring, kind and loving. The journey might be lead a group of veterans with PTSD through a therapeutic drumming and painting playshop. The journey might be to start a local meditation group. The journey might be to use cloth bags at the grocery store, instead of plastic. The journey might be to run for city council, mayor, the senate or even president. The journey might be to write poetry. The journey might be to take thought provoking photographs and share them with the world, as is the case with JR from France who shares his journey through a TED talk which you can watch here. The journey might be calling, writing to and petitioning one's civic leaders to make changes to gun laws. The journey might be leading workshops, counseling others, or writing articles and books that inspire others to be their best selves, who in turn do the same for others on their journey.
Do you have an inkling right now of what your journey might be?
This can be both a deep and yet also freeing question to ponder. Imagine that you have been agonizing over finding our big purpose on this planet and you suddenly realize your journey in giving back to others is through writing poetry, something that you love to do. Or that your great gift to others is through how you love to cook and feed people really good food. It could be that you have a gift for connecting people with other people and your role as a networker is so very valuable in bringing people together.
There are many ways one can make a difference. None of us have to do it all. None of us can do it all. All we can do is our own part. My wish is for us all to simply do our little part to make this a more compassionate, kind, caring and loving world. As Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
Want to know of ways you can take action in connection with the Half the Sky movement? Visit this website to find out the many ways one can contribute ~ donate, volunteer, buy for good, advocate, become a campus ambassador, become a community ambassador, host or find a screening of Half the Sky, or share your story: http://www.halftheskymovement.org/pages/act
Here is a short video featuring actress America Ferrera as she talks about her participation in the Half the Sky documentary and her experience in India.