Section 3: LIVING WITH GOODNESS
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
We Need You!
While this lesson can be helpful to anyone regardless of their age, it was written with the “young folks” in mind. So, if you are “older” and have young ones in your family or know of someone in that younger age group who could benefit from some of the points made here, please call their attention to this lesson, and be willing to spend some time discussing it with them as well.
The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’ve Made Progress, But the Work Is Not Done
We “older folks” should have already completed all of the work to make this country a great place for you and all who live here now. After all, we’ve been at it for almost 250 years. But building a country and having it function well is a never ending task. We’ve made a good start, but there is a lot of work left to be done. As a reminder, here are some of the important things we’ve accomplished so far…
…created a medical, hospital, and research system that is the envy of the world,
…invented the microchip, cell phone and laptop computer, key components of tech today,
…built well-respected collegiate institutions that educate students from all over the world,
…developed the internet, connecting people and information throughout the world,
…defeated polio and other childhood diseases while making inroads against cancer,
…fostered companies that are great innovators and serve customers throughout the world,
…provided food and financial aid to a large portion of the world’s population, and
…maintained a military that has protected our homeland through difficult times.
But, in spite of these accomplishments, there is much work left to be done. And, you, especially if you are in the 10 to 20 age range, are now entering the age of responsibility when you and your generation start moving to the front of the line and the challenges that face our country become your challenges as well.
You Have a Lot to Be Concerned About
Whether you realize it or not, the fact is that you, and those near your age, will have major issues and problems to address in the coming years, and much work will be required of your generation to resolve them. Let me remind you of some of these.
National Challenges. You’re going to have to find a way to resolve our massive federal debt, to fix our crumbling infrastructure, to lower the cost of medications (especially for our seniors), to pass immigration laws that work, to return much of our lost manufacturing skill to this country, and to elect political representatives who will actually put the people before their party.
Guns. Not only are more people being killed by guns in this country than ever before, but the instances of gun violence have spread to churches, businesses, and even schools. How are you going to stop all of this gun madness in such a way that the majority of Americans will support the solution that you “young folks” offer?
Drug Abuse. You’ll definitely have to address the drug situation. Drug overdoses are killing more than 70,000 people in the U.S. each year and more than 250,000 worldwide. Worse, it is estimated that millions of people’s lives are being ruined by drug usage rendering them nonfunctional and dependent on society to care for them in some way.
Climate Change. Oh, and what about climate change…how are you and your group going to tackle that one? It’s a challenge of enormous proportions because there are still a large number of people who don’t believe it, and, once you convince them, you’ve got to do the same for people all around the world. But this could be your one great chance to get people in every country on the same team and bring a real peace in the world as we all work together to save our planet.
Internet Impact and Abuse. You have a new social problem to tackle here as you already know. You have the challenge of getting people to be nice on the internet, to treat each other with respect instead of blasting someone they don’t even know with poorly chosen words. You’ve got to determine how to use the internet in better ways. How can you harness this communications powerhouse and use it to bring more peace and cooperation into the world? It would be wonderful if the internet could be used in such a way.
Community Challenges. While we have identified many national and worldwide challenges here, there are dozens of important situations right in the community in which you live and in your school that need to be addressed. Feeding and providing for the homeless, which now number more than a half a million individuals in the U.S., is a need in every community. The quality of elementary and high school education is trending down as proven by ACT scores and comparative testing with students from countries around the world. And a growing attitude of disrespect…we just don’t seem to care about each other like we used to. You’re going to have to address and resolve these as well as a number of other issues facing your state or city.
Yes, you do have a lot that will be on your plate…a large group of important problems that you and your generation will have to work to fix. It’s a tall order, I know. And I want to apologize again for leaving you with so much work to do. But this is important stuff, important work to be done. So the real question facing you and others your age is this: What can I do with my life to make this country and the world a better place? What will change, or be made better, as a result of the life you will live?
But You Say, “Those Are Grownup Problems!”
As you read this today, your first reaction is likely to be something like this:
“Well, those aren’t my problems…that’s grownup stuff…I’m far too young to worry about those kind of things…besides I want to have some fun before I really get serious about my life and what I’m going to do with it.”
I can understand that reaction and, like most other things, it’s your choice to make. You can ignore the circumstances around you as you are growing up, not pay much attention to the problems you see, and get on with having some real fun in life.
But, let me tell you this…just having fun is not all it’s cracked up to be…especially when substituted for those more important things you could do to make a difference in the lives of others.
Granted, there’s a time and place to have some fun, but the feelings of satisfaction that come from helping others are far more rewarding and much longer lasting than those so-called “great times” that we typically search for when we are younger.
And, never think you are too young to start working on more important things. It is never “too soon” to go to work on something that will make life better for others. Let me tell you about some young people in various parts of the world who are doing just that and making a difference in some very important ways…
Emma Gonzales, 19 years old, has become an activist for gun control. In the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Feb 2018 (which killed 17 people), she made a passionate speech for gun control. Gonzalez co-founded the gun control advocacy group Never Again MSD. Since then, she has made high profile media appearances and organized the ‘March for Our Lives’ nationwide protest against gun violence, which became the largest student protest in American history. Glamour Magazine referred to her as the face of the #NeverAgain Movement. She continues to work this very day for more stringent gun control.
Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 18 and 16 respectively, are two sisters who became aware of the extent of plastic pollution in the seas around Bali. They formed an NGO (non-government organization) called Bye Bye Plastic to actively promote the collection of plastic waste and discourage its use. They speak at schools, conferences, and to politicians. Their youth-focused pressure group has become a global mission.
Malala Yousafzai, at age 14, became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The young activist from Pakistan became famous for speaking out against the Taliban and encouraging young girls like herself to pursue an education. She made her first public speech touting the cause when she was only 11 years old.
Abigail Lupi was 10 years old when she visited her grandma’s nursing home to sing a song for her 100th birthday. That visit opened Abigail’s eyes to the loneliness faced by many elderly people in care. Upset by the lack of visitors or family members to care for them, Abigail started CareGirlz, a troupe of talented singing, dancing and acting youngsters who spend their free time visiting aged care homes and hospitals to perform for, and talk with, the elderly. A roaring success, CareGirlz has brightened the lives of more than 1,000 elderly people and is growing every year.
Krtin Nithiyanandam, 16 years old, developed a test which can detect Alzheimer’s Disease a decade before symptoms appear and which may even help stop the disease’s progression! Radically different from common testing methods, Krtin’s test involves antibodies which, once injected into the bloodstream, attach themselves to proteins in the brain (which are one of the first stages of Alzheimer’s) and then show up on brain scans. It is thought that this test may even be able to stop the proteins from further growth, and in doing so, stop Alzheimer’s from developing!
Katie Stagliano, 9 years old, was given a school project which involved growing a cabbage from a seed. Katie managed to grow a whopping 30+ pound cabbage. Instead of eating it herself, she took it to a local soup kitchen for the homeless, where it went on to feed more than 275 people. Moved by how many people were helped with just one vegetable, Katie decided to grow more. With this in mind, she set up a number of vegetable gardens to grow whole crops of food to donate. This project became Katie’s Krops, and it quickly spread, with many young people also growing their own food for donation. So far, thousands of kilos of food have been grown under the Katie’s Krops initiative, with many thousands of homeless and vulnerable people able to eat because of the vision and hard work of one girl.
Ken Amante, at the age of 9, started his very own animal shelter to care for the hundreds of dogs and cats left abandoned, hurt, injured, sick, and starving around his rural hometown in the Philippines. Called The Happy Animals Club, the shelter was started after photos of Ken wandering the streets feeding hungry animals hit the internet. Donations from people across the world helped Ken lease space to house and care for homeless animals and animals facing euthanasia in local pounds. Up and running with the help of volunteers, the no-kill shelter currently aims at finding loving homes for all of the animals in its care.
Ali Amood and Adam Alahmad are two young students who, in response to a stabbing at one of Sydney’s roughest schools, started the Pulse Cafe. The idea was that with a cup of coffee and some food, a school community could be created where friendships were fostered and barriers were broken down. With a small starting grant to buy the coffee machine, the Pulse Cafe started running in the morning between 8 and 8:30 a.m., serving coffee and food. Supported by donations as well as funds from customers, the cafe is also able to provide food to students who don’t have the financial means to pay for breakfast. Since the Pulse Cafe first opened its doors, the school has seen a dramatic shift in behavior, with violence levels down significantly, and with students happier and more engaged.
Ranging in age from 9 to 19, these young people are making this world a little better as a result of choices they made. They are making important differences in the lives of others. They saw a need, felt something inside, and made the choice to do something to benefit to others. You can make such a choice and make a difference as well.
How Will You Make a Difference?
Truth be told, only you can answer this question.
It’s very possible that, as you read this lesson, you thought of something that you would like to do to address a need in your school or in your community or to help someone you know who has a special need. If you do feel such an inclination, I urge you to give it some careful thought as such “early clues” are almost always accurate insights into something you could do to make things better in some way. Take your clue, think carefully about it, discuss it with your parents or a trustworthy friend, and, if needed, do some research to gather additional details. When you’re ready, make the choice to “do your thing” to help others in some special way.
If you aren’t in possession of the “clue” referenced above, here are two things you can do to help you discover and confirm how you might make a difference:
Look for the need
You won’t have to look very far to find a cause or someone who is in need in some special way. In fact, there will likely be many possibilities for you to consider. The key here is to find a need that you feel strongly about…one that you feel “a special something” about and would truly like to make the circumstances better regardless of the work or challenge involved. In other words, you’re trying to match your personal desire to make a difference with a need you feel strongly about.
Consider your interests, abilities, and feelings
This is close to the suggestion above, but starts from the other end. Above we started with the need and worked to match up it with the feelings inside of you. Here, we taking things the other way around by considering what your interests, abilities, and feelings are saying to you and using them to direct you to the need. We have addressed these three factors in many other lessons pointing out their role in leading us to our intended purpose in life. Here you are using these to guide you to the need. For example, you may have felt “a pull” toward a career in medicine, and, if so, you might contact local hospitals or clinics to determine if they have a need you could fulfill.
Whichever approach you take, you have to be prepared to make the choice to go to work to make a difference in some specific way. You can’t just think about it forever; you have to commit and get busy. The reward can be truly significant…you will never feel so good, so positive, so important, so needed as you will feel when you actually use your life to help others in your own special way.
We Need You!
The truth is…this country and the world needs you! We need you to “do your thing” and, in so doing, to make the world a better place in your own unique way. You have interests, abilities, and feelings…still developing though they may be…that are leading you to your purpose and to what you should do with your life.
If there is one thing I believe more than anything is that you, yes you, are here for a reason. You are not here just for yourself, but to make life better for others. If there is a secret to how life should be lived, it’s finding and fulfilling that purpose, using your life so that others “may have life and have it more abundantly.”
Do more than belong: participate.
Do more than care: help.
Do more than believe: practice.
Do more than be fair: be kind.
Do more than forgive: forget.
Do more than dream: work.
William Arthur Ward
What is one thing you can do to make your community and this country a better place?
How do you reconcile your desire to “just have fun” with the importance
of doing something helpful and beneficial to others?
What feelings do you currently have concerning what you might want to do with your life?
Do you have anything specific in mind right now?