If you don’t believe one person can make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”
-Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
So sometimes I confess that I feel like a pest. I know my family isn’t all that excited by the same things that I am. I can actually watch that glassy look come into their eyes sometimes when I’m on a roll, excited and telling them all about my ideas and dreams for the work that I do.
Does it seem like that to you? Do you want to get involved and contribute to your community, but when you talk about what you would like to do, does your family treat you like a whiny mosquito?
The thing you must realize here is that your job is not to convince your family. It’s not even to convince your friends or acquaintances, or the city planners and mayor’s office, or your church group…
Your first job is to convince yourself. That’s right. The reason you seek out the approval and support of your family et al is because you aren’t sure of yourself. You don’t trust that you have anything to give!
If you have the desire, you have something to give. It is a reaching out of your hand to connect. It is a putting your hand in the dirt. It is getting involved and getting messy and being open hearted and willing to get your heart broken.
Dreaming of something better for yourself, for the people you love, for people in your community is an act of courage. It’s all too easy to try to conform and think that what is and what has always been done is all that can be done. It is all too easy to listen to the nay-sayers, real or imagined, and let an opportunity to do something slip you by.
It’s been said that “every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
But even that is not why you matter. If you have a dream, no matter how big or small, you must act on it. Your action may never shake the status quo or even be noticed. But you will know. You will know that you tried to make a difference, that you tried to give a helping hand, that you took a brave step towards a better world.
You may fail miserably. You may look like a fool. You may make all sorts of mistakes. But if you don’t try, you will not do anything at all and will have no chance of making this world a better place.
I believe there is a powerful energy in caring. Of course, it would be nice and wise to do things well and prudently, to be efficient in some measurable way. But sometimes the most important things, like caring, cannot be measured.
Remember that Greek proverb that says: A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.
You may never see the evidence that your caring action made any difference. But that’s not necessarily your job, to measure the outcome. You are here for a reason and that reason is that the world needs you to take the action that only you, right where you are, can make.
It’s not up to you to worry about who will get to sit under those trees or when. Those trees may even get cut down by some fool after you are gone, and even that is not your problem.
If it is your job to plant trees, plant them. Plant them to the best of your ability. Nobody is as optimistic as a gardener. Be a happy gardener and plant your garden for the happiness of your community. Nurture it as long as it is in your care. Then let it go.
That’s all you need to do. You may never know what joy you have brought into the lives of others, but if you do nothing, nothing will change.