“Never doubt that one person can make a difference.” ~ Ingrid Newkirk
Making a Difference
Everywhere in the media today we hear about the injustices that occur across the globe. From poverty and famine to environmental devastation, it seems as though the world is in a downward spiral. It’s easy to get lost in the face of these adversities and resign yourself to living in a world where nothing seems likely to change.
But in reality, this is the easy way out.
Maybe one person can’t change the world alone, but that doesn’t mean making a difference is impossible.
Rather than being overwhelmed by all the problems in the world, focus on what you can do where you are.
Making a Difference Where You Are
1. Find Your Cause
The first thing in making a difference is to figure out what you are passionate about. Start by making a list of social issues that are close to your heart. Journal about them and why you might connect with them. For example, you might have seen a neighborhood forest or riverside destroyed to become an industrial nightmare. Or maybe you’ve witnessed the increase of homeless kids in your community over a period of time. Writing about these issues is a great starting point, as it will help you truly articulate your feelings about the issue as well as give you direction. You will find that there may be one or two causes that really resonate with you. Putting your thoughts down on paper acts as a good reference point, providing motivation and giving a shape to actions you may want to take to make a difference.
2. Start Small
So many people think that making a difference is all about going out into the world to serve. But there are many needy members of society that exist within their community.
If travel, time and money are stopping you, consider local volunteering options. For instance, you could look for a nearby soup kitchen or nursing home and dedicate an hour each week to serving others. Within your home itself, you can encourage family members to be environmentally friendly. Start recycling your waste and composting food waste, and make an effort to minimize water wastage and save energy by turning off lights when you don’t need them.
Even though it may seem too much to handle, it’s important to be educated about world events. Knowing what goes around in the world around you is key to making a difference. When you know what’s going on in the world, you have more power to affect it. Even seemingly distant policy decisions or worldwide events eventually trickle down and will affect you in some way. Thus, it is good to have a hold on current affairs by watching the news or reading the paper on a daily basis.
Awareness also extends to everyday life. Make sure you know where the products you use regularly are coming from. Sometimes, the things we use every day are a result of people who have been exposed to horrible working conditions. This is often the case with products that are made in developing countries or with the “Made in China” label. There are many sources that talk about these products, so research the effects of using these products, both in a humanitarian and environmental manner. Even though it may not seem like much as first, awareness in everyday choices makes an impact. Just like worldwide events, your choices will have a trickle effect, making an indirect difference around the world to help break the cycle of injustice.
4. Become Socially Involved
Another way to make a difference within the community is to get involved in social entrepreneurship. Someone who is an example of this is Jim Ziolkowski.
Moved by the poverty he’d seen on his travels, he gave up a lucrative career in finance to start buildOn — a nonprofit that runs after-school programs in disadvantaged areas of the U.S. and builds free schools for children around the globe.
Social entrepreneurship of this sort is on the rise according to Professor Mary Hilton (University of Nevada, Reno), due to the increasing levels of social inequality in the US. It is a flexible field that allows people to do a multitude of things and work in a variety of settings. Research local social entrepreneurs and social workers, and get in touch with them in regards to how you can help within the community. If you do have time on your side and want to dedicate your career to fighting social injustices, then consider using your skills for the betterment of your community.
If you truly want to affect change, you cannot be afraid to speak up. More often than not, people will laugh at your ideas or rudely dismiss them, but only your hard work and confidence can prove them wrong. Rally for what you believe in — whether it means taking part in movements like the Women’s’ March or spreading a message through your social media platforms. Speaking up is one way of starting a chain reaction.
It motivates people to do the same and eventually take action. Zilowski talks about how he teaches kids in his after-school programs to serve. If you teach a child to serve, he says, “There’s a chain reaction.” One child named Gaddy, for example, after volunteering at her local homeless veterans’ shelter, traveled with buildOn to Nicaragua to build schools in developing villages; now she runs her own volunteer programs at the college. “All told,” says Ziolkowski, “the people she’s influenced are in the thousands.”
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to right the wrongs in the world. Even though these might seem like baby steps, starting somewhere is the foundation for making a tangible change. You don’t necessarily need to travel far and wide, or have a lot of money to spare — you can make a difference from right where you are.