For the past week or so I have been thinking about something my public speaking instructor said to me at the end of our course, after class and outside of the classroom. I was talking to two or three girls taking the night class at the community college with me and he went out of his way to approach me and simply said, “I know you’ll change the world someday”.
At the time I was significantly flattered. I assumed that meant he saw a special potential in me that he just didn’t see in others. So what was it he saw? If we are to be honest it was a night class at a community college on public speaking. Sure, even I can see that I can be a powerful speaker … when I care. But what did it mean – ‘You’ll change the world someday’.
If that instructor could see me know my guess is that I failed to meet his expectations. It has been weighing on my mind as yet another year of my life passes. Like many people I work in a job I may or may not love, I buy things I may or may not need, I follow social norms I may or may not agree with … because it is what we do. All I keep thinking is:
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world, Chantel’
Why is that so hard? I don’t know where to start. The change I wish to see in the world is not a singular change.
With the frigid Minnesota Winter we have had I am confronted with a huge difference between the city in which I work and the quiet little suburb in which I live – the visibility to homelessness. My little suburb tucks it away nice and neat where no one can see; when I am at home it’s easy to say it’s not really an issue.
In the heart of the big city there is a beautiful yet painful coexistence of the homeless and the buttoned up self-important professional. The dress code you will see rushing though the skyway any give work day is all business suits and heels, but if you slow down just enough to SEE people you will notice that in the corners there are people in dirty shirts, old shoes, and thin jackets.
Homelessness is bad.
This may be the change I wish to see in the world, not because I think it can be corrected, or because I think it only exists as a function of the individuals’ choice – though surely it can be improved and the latter is true in some cases. I chose this because it encompasses almost everything I would see as wrong with the world, it is something I am facing every day, and it scares me – what if it was me, what if no one saw me, let alone helped me?
Now the problem is how do I ‘fix’ this or make that change?
It’s hard to hand out money, you never know what it is being used for and frankly I work hard for my living.
A sandwich is great but only last a short time.
A blanket is helpful – but where will it be stored?
I know it isn’t my job to solve the problem, but it seems that the issue is with humanity and overcoming those barriers to helping.
My sister would be so proud of me for this next comment – I can’t believe I am about to reference John Lennon – or anything remotely Beatles related (not my cup of tea) but here goes nothing.
I first heard the song Imagine when we did it for a ‘profound’ high school band performance. I didn’t much care for it then but I have to hand it to the man, he had a point.
‘Imagine no country, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for and no religion to. Imagine all the people living life in peace.’
I am not suggesting we forget about country, state and other social and government constructs, it has its place and its value, but how much stronger would we be as a human race if we looked out for each other, accepted our difference, and stopped trying to climb over each other in an attempt to be top dog?
Honestly think about it. It’s called a rat race for a reason and it is stressful and slowly killing us, it’s damaging our environment and poisoning our relationships with food, ourselves and others.
I am not proposing a radical change. Don’t go sell all of your worldly possessions, quit your job and move to a little house in the woods and burn all of your money … unless that was already your plan, then I love it, good luck, and enjoy!
I enjoy shopping and creating and I even like working – for someone else. Sure it has its draw backs but someone else is taking most of the risk so that works well for me. I don’t want to give those things up or my aspirations to be more in 2 years than I am now.
So, if I would just get to the point already, I am proposing you say hi to that old man in the corner clearly without a home. Buy that woman a cup of coffee in the morning, she is still trying to recover from last night’s subzero temps. And because this is more a social issue of value and respect you would even expand a little, hold the door for that mom juggling 3 kids, all of whom refuse to sit in the stroller she is trying to push into the mall.
Here’s the thing – my instructor put a huge expectation on me when he said I will change the world someday. I don’t know that I have succeeded, but I also don’t know that I have failed. I never have set out to change the world, but I am willing to bet that there is someone out there who was reenergized, inspired, touched, or just had a better day for interacting with me in everyday life.
And it was likely as simple as just seeing them, accepting them, and being kind to them.