We need to build a better world, you and I. There has never been more of a need than there is today. There has also never been a better time. There is an old saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
A better world where our lives make sense, where we stop working longer hours in jobs we detest to buy things that fill our homes but don’t and can’t make us happy. Where we realize that we – not things and not money – make ourselves and each other happy. Our lives are better when we work with others, helping them while helping ourselves at the same time. A world where what we do engages us and what we love, and that work fulfills us and gives us and the world meaning. Where both parties in each and every transaction benefit, and the first thought isn’t “what profit is there for me?” and the dollar isn’t the sole measure of benefit, profit and satisfaction.
There are many critical systems that are in decline or are breaking, but do not give up. Depending on where you look and what you read the world is on the brink of catastrophic collapse in many areas; finance, food, energy, water and populations are all at risk. There are dire predictions of dark and difficult times ahead, but do not give up.
These circumstances are precisely why you and I must build a better world. We must begin today. Very few people have a positive outlook for the next 5 to 10 years, but we can change that. When questioned, those same people give the reason for their pessimistic outlook as due to the state of the world and to circumstances created by governments and corporations. In other words, they are afraid of external circumstances beyond their control.
We start building a better world by realizing, recognizing and taking responsibility for the only thing that we truly have control over in our lives – our choices. We always have the power of choice. We constantly choose, for better or for worse. Several hundred times a day we make a choice. Our choices affect not only us, but those around us and multitudes of others we will never meet. There are those that say that one person cannot make a difference. This is untrue. One person, alone, will have a difficult time making a difference. However, we are very rarely truly alone – especially in our choices. Our lives are the direct results of our choices, made throughout the years that have lead us to this place in time where we are today. Who we are, what our character is, what we do in life, where we live are all the results of choices we have made.
Our most powerful choice to build a better world may be one that we make with little thought every day. Our choice of how and what to spend our money on is one of those paradoxes that goes largely unnoticed and unexamined in our lives. Both Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan have said that we vote with our forks three times a day. Many of us have heard the “Buy local” and “Know your farmer” mantra, but what does that mean?
What it really comes down to is taking the responsibility of who you support with your dollars. Every time you make a purchase, you are financially helping that company, along with endorsing the way it does business. For better or worse, this is what happens. Do you love the eggs, greens and tomatoes from the young farmer at the Saturday Farmer’s market? Wonderful! Buy them and you directly help that company stay in business and grow. Are you upset at how many jobs have been sent to China, and the newly introduced GMO sweet corn in Wal-Mart? Good! Do you buy anything from them? If so, despite your disagreement, you are helping them to stay in business and grow. It really is that simple.
Realize, though, that simple almost never means easy. It can be tough to make good choices. This is one of the reasons we are so passionate about small business and human scale living. Our individual purchases means very little to a large international corporation, but means a lot to a small family owned farm or business. There is a quote that sums this up nicely –
“When you buy from a small mom or pop business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home.
You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college.
Our customers are our shareholders and they are the ones we strive to make happy. “
This can seem daunting at first. There are so many choices about so many things that we don’t want to get wrong, we don’t know where to start. There is also so much negativity around, it can seem to be simply too much. Start small, start by focusing on and emphasizing the positive choices that we can make today. We won’t build a better world by getting rid of the negatives; we will build it by focusing on and increasing the positives. When more of a positive nature is added to a system, it will naturally and automatically become better as the positive displaces the negative. What we focus on – positive or negative – think about, talk about and act on will grow. Help grow the good in our lives. Find good, positive ideas, thoughts and directions, and then incorporate them into your life. It takes some work to concentrate on the good and beneficial, but once those habits are started they will continue to help.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that you cannot make a difference. Never underestimate the power of change inherent in a small effort, movement or idea. Committed people make the difference on a large and small scale every day. As the famous quote from Margaret Mead goes –
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Start by finding and working on what you can do, not what can’t be done. Build a better life, starting with your life. Plant a garden at home, no matter how small. Container gardens are great, they are simple to set up and use and can grow some good food. Help out at the community garden, with or without a plot of your own. Share your veggies with a neighbor, family or friends. Help out at the food bank, Meals on Wheels, or your local soup kitchen with donated veggies or your time.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to enrich and improve your life. Stop thinking about the dollar value in each opportunity, and make the decision to take it or not based on how much positive or good it will bring to your life and others. Read more. Read to learn and not just for entertainment. Study your environment and habitat where you live. Get to know what grows wild there. Find out what is edible and what is not. Learn what edibles will grow well with little care and plant some. Start a food forest in your yard or neighborhood and share with those around you. Make a point of getting to know someone new at the Farmer’s market, or going to the Farmer’s market if you don’t already go. Learn what is made in your community or town. You might be surprised at what you don’t know about where you live. Once you start getting to know more about where you live, you just might find that you like it more than you initially thought.
These are some of the ways you and I can build a better world. We can start today.