“Nice day,” I said to the young lady fuelling up her car next to me.
“If you don’t look at the price,” she replied and we both laughed.
I was fueling up my truck at the local gas station. I was watching the numbers blur past when something caught my eye — a small amber display just below the keypad. It had words written on it. When I learned nearer I could see that it read, “Help us change the world.” The statement was obviously some sort of advertisement for the gas company — I assumed something to do with improving fuel efficiency and lowering emissions. I looked back at the pump as the total neared $50. Damn. I had only planned to spend $40 so quickly released the handle. I glanced once more at the display before heading into the station to pay.
Despite my busy schedule, the statement kept popping into my head. You see, sometime prior I’d been having a conversation with a friend about making a difference in the world. He was uncertain if he could and wondered if his tiny contribution would even been noticed. I told him a big part of what I had been doing with my life in recent years — all of my studies, writing and teaching on self-esteem – had been directed at changing the world in a small, yet positive way. He thought about that for a few moments then agreed to consider the issue further.
Like my friend, most people think they don’t have the power or influence to make a difference in the world. I once believed that differences were the domain of heroes like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa, or brilliant innovators like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
I have come to believe that all of us can make a difference in the world simply choosing to do so. No, I’m not saying that we need to cure cancer, feed the starving or end hostility in the Middle East. It was Mother Teresa who said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” It is not the size of the contribution that matters but the fact that we make the effort to contribute. If we all put forth just a little effort, together we can achieve great results.
The most important step is the first one. Anne Frank wrote in her famous diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne was right. We can start today by offering a smile, a word of encouragement or lending a hand with no expectation of compensation. No gesture is too small or inconsequential.
“Nobody can do everything,” wrote an anonymous scribe. “But everyone can do something.” We may believe, like my friend, that our contribution won’t amount to much, so why bother? Consider the millions of people who fail to vote each election thinking their one ballot will make no difference. We must, of course, consider our motivation. Some people want to make a big splash and then be patted on the head for having done so. It seems the greatest contributions are the honest ones where we give or do simply for the joy of giving and doing.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,” wrote Buddha. “And the life of the candle will not be shortened.” The two greatest gifts we can share with the world are our love and passion. Too often we indulge in our own self-gratification with little or no regard for those in the world who experience little or no joy and happiness. An old axiom says that to receive, we must first give. Happiness is never decreased by sharing. There’s enough bitterness, anger and envy in the world. Decide to share your smile and your heart with the world.
“The beauty of empowering others,” wrote international best-selling author and motivator, Barbara Colorose, “is that your own power is not diminished in the process.” You can change the world by helping one person at a time. One of the ways to help someone is to empower him or her. Help people to reach their full potential by offering praise and encouragement rather than criticism. You can do this as an employer — you can do it as the coach of a little league or minor hockey team. I have a friend who volunteers with the local refugee effort and another who makes regular visit to a local seniors lodge to organize games and activities for residents.
Be a good role model. There is great value in the old saying, “A good example has twice the value of good advice.” Truth will always be found in behaviour. Let your words and your behaviour be in harmony with each other. The best way to convince people is to lead by example.
Do what you can, share your knowledge, wisdom and insights. As for me, I write, speak and share my thoughts on self-esteem and personal empowerment. I believe that people with a healthy sense of self make better choices for their families, communities and country.
After much consideration, my friend decided that he would become a vocal advocate for a fledging political movement. He has studied the issues and regularly takes a stand against big government and big business. He’s making a difference in his own unique way.
I appreciate the words of Frank Hall Crane, the American film and stage actor and director who said, “Your sole contribution to the sum of things is yourself.” Help us change the world. In this situation, the “us” is you and me. Join our efforts and make a difference.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca