Monday, December 14, 2015

The World Needs You Right Where You Are

I took a semester of classes through Seton Hall Law School on Islamic Finance, Sharia Law, and Comparative Law. Every student expressed a desire to work in international law – specifically international human rights.

I had no such desire.

Over the years I have constantly heard people say they want to have a positive impact on the world – always focusing on an international crisis of some kind. They usually ask me how they can get involved with an international organization or get a job in some far off land where they can “help.”

We always look at problems in far off lands and think the problem is so simple, “I could change that.” 

We see poverty and think, “They just need to see the opportunity. We can build new infrastructure. We can show them how to farm. We can help them create small businesses with micro loans.”

We see women oppressed and think, “They just need to understand their ideas are wrong, that women have value. I could teach the women to stand up for their rights.”

We see orphaned children and think, “They just need someone to love them and believe in them. I can do that.”

We do not just desire to make a difference; we desire to see the difference. Problems that our society appears to have already solved seem more solvable.

The question is, are the problems ever that simple?

We fail to understand that it took many years to make changes and the unique character of the society was part of the solution, not just logic or structural changes. The same changes that “solved” the problem in one society are not necessarily the solution to the same problem in other societies.

It could even be said that many of the “problems” in the United States have not totally been solved.

We still have discrimination, poverty, and abuse.

Somehow the very people who ask me about what they can do on an international level, are never interested in my suggestions of helping locally.

Is it not sexy enough? Is it not adventurous enough?  Are the changes not dramatic enough?

I believe we have become immune to local problems, our own people. Somehow we have been convinced that local problems are not solvable, or not deserving of help.

Maybe we believe we have pulled ourselves up and others can do the same. They had the same “chances” we did, they just didn’t “pull up their boot straps” like we did.  Not like those “poor” people in other countries that never had the same chances.

Instead of dreaming of saving people in other countries, why not look at the problems that still exist in our own society?

If you really want to make a difference, opportunities are everywhere. Pick a passion.

If your passion is children, look to homeless, to orphans, to the disadvantaged.  A multitude of local organizations exist that can point you to the needs – and there are many.

If your passion is women’s rights, the opportunities exist from shelters to politics - direct help to advocacy. No real research is necessary to see that women (ultimately impacting children) are suffering. Shelter funding is on the decline. To say resources to help women fleeing abuse are limited is an understatement.  Women’s healthcare andreproductive freedom is under attack.

If your passion is poverty, we have a lot of it. Food pantries are struggling. Homelessness is on the rise. Mental health funding is a disgrace.

If those ideas are too much for you, just be a good person.

Help people when you see people need help.

When a co-worker is being picked-on, stand up for them or report it to human resources.

If you witness a wrong, correct it.

Bullies can smell a victim. Stand up to bullies.

Many people watch the show What Would You Do? and are astounded at the inaction of people witnessing injustices or wrong behavior. But we have become a society of “mind your own business,” “do not make waves,” and “someone else will do something,” "It's not my problem,"“don’t be a hero.”

The people who stand up for others are now the exception.

Everyone wants to be a hero but few want to do what it takes. To the people that need help, anyone can be a hero.  The story of the Star Fish Man comes to mind.

If you want to positively impact the world, you do not have to move to a far off land, you just have to engage in the place where you live.  

Start with your own field of influence.

Just start.

1 comment:

  1. I like this. Applicable at all times, countries, and people including us. We tend to do little and exagerate or act like handicapped! " Don't be the hero" and other slogans are widely used unlike 20 years back ... We will work to make world better regardless and I will remind others because this is the only I got better and feel still weak.