On this 10th anniversary of the 2002 Bail Bombing (12 October) we remember the victims and their families and hope for a more peaceful world. Last week (2 October) was Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, celebrated as a national holiday in India and as International Non-Violence Day around the world. Perhaps its a good time to reflect on how we can play our part (however small) in changing the world into a more peaceful place and following Gandhi’s example.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to change the world – but what does that mean?
If I were a clichéd beauty pageant entrant it would mean ending poverty or achieving ‘world peace’ (Not that I was ever beautiful enough nor naïve enough to fit those particular six inch stilettos).
Of course there are things I can do to ease or even eliminate poverty for someone, a few people, even a few more people, and I have made some efforts in this regard. I’ve refused to subscribe to the limitations of ‘only a drop in the ocean’. In the same way I’ve supported causes for peace, shared information in order to advance harmony in the world, and been a peacemaker in personal and professional situations. But I haven’t got down and dirty in the trenches fighting against world poverty or for world peace. And so (of course) I’ve felt guilty for not doing more. And in my guilt I’ve become disillusioned – as though anything I did do wouldn’t be worthwhile – ‘only a drop in the ocean’.
Has this happened to you? Have you started out all idealistic wanting to make big changes, felt bad because you haven’t been able to achieve the dramatic differences you’d dreamed of then decided that simply making a difference isn’t meaningful enough? Have you given up on trying?
Of course Mahatma Gandhi famously said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
He was imploring us to get off the sidelines complaining about how things are, to stop lamenting about how things should be, and to actually move our butts to DO something about bringing on change.
But even more importantly, in my understanding of one of the wisest pearls of wisdom I’ve heard, Gandhi was challenging us to actually embody change, to BE the way we want to the world to BE (loving, fair, peaceful, generous, just etc).
This means that the differences we make within ourselves (by being more loving, generous etc) add up to the changing the world, one difference at a time.
We don’t have to seek to change the world, just ourselves.
If I want a more peaceful world, I might try yelling at my children less. Even more fundamental, I might try getting less frustrated within myself, so that frustration doesn’t come out as a scream at a whining or lazy child.
My son whines to get what he wants – to bring about change in his world. So Mummy picks him up, Mummy plays a game with him, Mummy gives him food, Mummy simply opens the fridge in frustration and he reaches inside. But sometimes that complaining backfires – he misses out on a treat or a hug; he finds his world scenery has changed to the ‘naughty chair’.
Far better for him to BE the way he wants his world to be – contentedly playing so that Mummy wants to join in, calmly pointing at the fridge rather than acting like he’s never eaten in his life, being helpful, grateful, so that Mummy can’t help but give him a cuddle. Saying YES because that’s what he wants to hear, instead of his favourite word NO (NO, NO repeatedly). His current favourite saying is ‘up the hill’ – which is what he says when he can’t reach something he wants to get to – so at least he’s starting to get the notion of effort being required to get what you want!.
Little Yang is only two, so he’s got time to learn the lessons he needs to.
For the rest of us I think we can start changing the world by making one small change to ourselves, making a difference, one step at a time.
We don’t have to give up on the grand and noble dream, just realise that it has humble beginnings.
What’s the first step you want to make to change the world?