What better day than the anniversary of a national tragedy to begin my journey to making a positive difference in the world?
So after much delay, I present my five:
- Encourage others to pursue their dreams. Of all the things that I'm grateful to my nearest and dearest for, this is the one that tops the list. Having the faith and support of those around me has made a greater impact in my life than almost anything else. I know that I would not be where I am today with encouragement and kind words. I want to do that for others, and to do it more often.
- Lead by example. It may not seem like a particularly philanthropic goal, but it might very well be the hardest of my five for me to live by. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Too often, we forget that it's only by allowing ourselves to be happy and prosperous that we can even begin to help others to achieve the same.
- Pay more attention. When I begin to think about what I can do to help – to help the world, to help the impoverished, to help the distraught, to help the hopeless – I realize how little I know. Because of the pessimistic, never-point-out-the-good-in-life nature of news (particularly American news), I avoid it almost completely. But if I want to make a difference, I can't tune out the bad. I have to pay attention in order to spot an opportunity to act.
- Be mindful. Every day I ignore opportunities to reduce, recycle, or reuse. I know all of the little tricks that can lead to less energy or water consumption, to less pollution, to less waste. It's time for me to take those extra few minutes to take my recycling out. It's time for me to find places to donate old clothing/equipment/furniture/etc. instead of throwing it out. It's time for me to do what I know I should be doing anyway.
- Reach out. Whether it's an e-mail from a long-lost friend, a phone call from a relative on a non-holiday, or a compliment from a perfect stranger, it feels good to make connections and be acknowledged. I don't do that nearly enough, and I plan to change that.