OPINION – It’s doubtful that there’s been a commencement speech given in the past hundred years that hasn’t incorporated some variation of “change the world.”
The problem with most world-changers is they’ve been trained to believe the only changes that count will come about through public policy. This is why so many young idealists seek to get into politics.
It’s not that there isn’t real need for positive changes in the world. It’s that any change undertaken by politicians or other agents of the state is based, at some level, in the need to coerce others to behave in a way that someone else thinks they should.
This is the natural product that is achieved when a lust for power is multiplied by the mass desire for an instant, society-wide result.
This is where change-agents tend to become household names for all the wrong reasons. Their arrogant reliance upon force transforms what might have been beneficial into destructive social engineering.
No such change, no matter how well-intentioned the change-agent, will be for the better. Beneficial efforts to change the world are almost always small, incremental, and performed in the voluntary sector of society – in the market, in families, in civil society. Not in or through the state.
Instead of stumping for institutional solutions implemented by someone in a position of supposed authority, we must become problem-solvers on a purely individual level.
For a populace that has been trained to seek political solutions to everything that troubles them, this can be very difficult to visualize. For an example of what this looks like, I’ll share my friend Colby’s story.
Colby went to grab some lunch at a local burger joint recently, but when he went to pay for his order, he realized he didn’t have his debit card with him. We’ve all been there, right?
When he realized his mistake, Colby told the young woman across the counter to go ahead and cancel his order. To his surprise, she insisted on putting his lunch on her tab. There was no hesitation on her part to buy his lunch, even though she had never met him before.
This generosity was simply a part of the young woman’s character. It impressed Colby so much that he went back to the restaurant a few days later and put $40 on the young woman’s tab so she could continue to help others who might be in need.
The only thing required to solve an immediate problem was a person who recognized the need and possessed enough love for her fellow man to act on it.
She didn’t have to solve the problem of world hunger to have played a positive role in changing the world for the better. Millions of people who share her willingness to love their fellow man carry out similar, unacknowledged improvements in the lives of others without any recognition whatsoever.
The only reason you’re hearing about this young woman is because I felt her example was worth recognizing as proof that even small acts of humanity make a genuine difference.
It’s telling that when Colby and I discussed this idea on my radio show recently, there were immediate concerns about the possible legalities of creating a tab at other businesses and how it might encourage more neediness in the community.
These fears reflect the social conditioning to which we’ve all been subjected which trains us to think that only institutional solutions can be legitimate. This is a widely believed falsehood.
The concept of loving your neighbor isn’t about passively radiating good feelings at every passerby. It’s about taking action on an individual level when we encounter another person whose need we recognize.
Recognition or accolades are not the goal here. It’s to meet another’s immediate need, whether it’s a few bucks for gas or a meal or simply a kind word that lifts their spirits.
None of these actions require specialized training, vast wealth or superhuman powers of observation.
They only require an individual who recognizes the intrinsic value of each and every person and will not allow another to be oppressed while in their presence. This requires becoming able to see beyond artificial groupings and tribal designations by which we pigeonhole others.
Quiet, selfless deeds may not move the needle of public awareness, but they are never wasted.
I’m not asking you to take my word or anyone else’s word for this. I would ask that you keep an open mind regarding this concept long enough to put it to the test.
Try to recognize an immediate need in someone near you; it doesn’t matter how small. Then take personal action to help them. See if your view of the world doesn’t change for the better.
It really is that simple.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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