With so much sensational news available around the clock, it’s easy to despair — one might think the world has never been worse. In Hans Rosing’s book, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,” he uses data to argue that humanity may actually be at its current best. For example, access to healthcare and education has never been more widespread than it is right now. Sure, bad things still happen, but overall, life seems to be improving for humankind. Do you want to help improve the world around you?
Here are three things you can do to help the world continue to improve.
1. Build Bridges
It’s natural to get lost in the things that divide you from other people — especially when it comes to religion and politics. If you stop to think about it though, you could most likely find some way to relate to any human on earth. For example, people all over the world typically want what’s best for their family. You probably want that as well, which means you have something important in common.
Remember that people who are passionate about something — even if it’s the exact opposite of what you believe — are just trying to do what’s best for the world around them. Taken at face value, surely anybody could appreciate that others are just trying their best to do what they think is right.
Organizations like No Labels are designed to help bridge the gaps between divided political parties. It’s actually crucial that people disagree — without healthy debate, humanity wouldn’t progress and the world couldn’t improve. Disagreeing shouldn’t be synonymous with disliking. Do what you can to build bridges with other people, even if you disagree. If everyone would aim to build bridges when they disagree, that truly would change the world.
Make a conscious effort to make a new friend you disagree with. Heineken made an inspiring commercial that shows the power of getting to know people with opposing views.
2. Do Something — Anything
Do you have the ability to change the world? Yes. No matter who you are, the answer is yes. A story is told of a little girl who walks along the seashore, grabbing starfish off the beach and tossing them back into the sea. Her father looks at her and tells her to hurry up because she can’t help all of the starfish. She responds, “No, but I can help this one,” as she picks up another and tosses it back into the water.
Perhaps you can’t help everyone, but you can help some people, and you never know the impact that will have. Find ways to get involved in your local community, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter. Even an act so simple as picking up a few pieces of trash while you’re at the local park is contributing to society. When you contribute, you make an impact, and it’s all those simple acts that help make the world a better place.
The famous Boy Scout motto is “Do a good turn daily.” Of course, more is great but set the goal to do one.
Maybe it’s volunteering at the local library or helping somebody repair a flat tire, but it doesn’t even need to be that much. Smile. Open a door. So much as complimenting somebody’s outfit can help brighten their day, and right there you’ve just helped make the world a better place.
3. Be Civil
This is similar to building bridges but takes even less effort, and yet still has a huge impact. Just be nice. It’s that easy. The world needs civility, and it should permeate throughout every interaction.
Learn to engage in healthy debate, and learn to walk away from unhealthy discussions. What’s going to have a bigger impact on the world: trying to understand others’ points of view and helping them understand yours, or name-calling? Being civil doesn’t even mean being friends — it just means maintaining a baseline of mutual respect (even though it may not always be so mutual).
One of the problems with online debate is that people forget there’s a real human on the other end of the communication. Treat people with as much respect online as you would in person, and remember that everyone is some mother’s son or daughter. It may sound silly, but really — think of how heartbroken any mother would be to hear of somebody being unkind to her child, even if they are a grown man or woman.
You can have an impact. In fact, regardless of whether or not you intend to, you are always making an impact. If you can see the humanity in people you disagree with and look for small ways to contribute, you’ll leave a positive mark on the world. Maybe you can lead a global revolution, but it’s important to know that the world typically changes by small acts of good faith and civility, one bit at a time.
Be the change you want to see in the world, and do your part to improve the world around you.