Ever since I've started to realize all the social injustices of today's world, I have felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by a great will to change things, but also by the infinite number of problems and the fact that I had absolutely no idea where to start. However, little by little, I have come to realize that if I wanted to change the world, I had to start with myself.
I looked at all of my preconceptions about life and to what I like to call “my demons” - this aspect of me that tries to bring down everything that I build in my life. I analyzed where they came from, and why I think the way I do. I tried to relate with other people, and to understand how they come to see life the way they do. I don't think there is such thing as “human nature” - I think we are all a result of our societies, our cultures, our surroundings and our life events.
To go even further, I wanted not only to think about how differently other human beings could live – I wanted to experience it. That's how I decided to travel the world for some time, throwing myself into these entirely different places. I learned a lot, and I learned even more when I came back with a completely new perspective.
Through all of my experiences and lessons, I have come to the personal conclusion that if I wanted to change things, I had to do things differently. I started studying social work in Switzerland and I remember clearly that one day, when our professor told us something like the following: “It's no secret that what causes the world's inequalities is the system, the way our capitalist societies work. But you, as social workers, you are not here to change the system. The inequalities will always be there, and there's nothing you can do about it. You are only there to try and make things hold together, to make it a bit less unbearable for the victims of this system.”
He said that in complete honesty and, as much as I hated hearing it, I now thank him for it. Because it made me understand that this was not the way I wanted to go about these issues. It was the first of many realizations that drove me, a few months later, to quit university, and my country. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I knew, with absolute conviction, that I had to do things differently. I am a firm believer in the power of education, and I didn't want to give mine up completely. So I started again, this time using the wonders of technology: I can be anywhere on the planet, as long as I have an internet connection from time to time, I can complete my International Studies. I am now a part-time student, part-time traveller. Until then, I didn't even know that was possible. I still feel a bit as a pioneer in that domain, at times, because I don't know anybody else who is doing it.
Right now, I am studying about our environment; it is crazy how many small actions we can take to lower our carbon footprint. They may seem meaningless, if they are isolated. But we are not isolated. The same goes with pressuring governments: a single letter won't change much. But if thousands of people write a letter to urge a governemnt to free someone, for example, it can have wonderful results. And even for what may seem like smaller matters, some actions can make such a difference: a smile can brighten someone's day. I have myself been in some situations where my life was maybe saved by strangers who have offered me a hand, like this man who agreed for me to sleep in his truck, that cold and rainy night where I would have had to sleep outside, surrounded by dodgy men, without him. It didn't cost him anything, yet it changed so much for me. There's so many other examples, but you get my point.
That's how every step of my journey so far has tought me something about myself, about the world. I have used that time to heal myself and to think about what is it that I could do with my resources. I can write, and I can tell my stories. I can share the feelings that animate me. And I can keep making these steps, everyday. But what if I didn't have to make them alone? An idea grew inside me, that maybe most of the people also want to change things but don't know where to start, just like me. But again, we are not isolated, are we? So what if we all came together to take these steps? How amazing would that be, to imagine a huge wave of positive actions that would be accomplished simultaneously? To be able to share our experiences, and feel heard, supported while doing them? I am not talking about huge actions that imply amazing sacrifices; I'm talking about these small, daily gestures that everybody can undertake and that are often not appreciated enough. Because for most of us, this is all we can do to change things. Let's not underestimate it!
That's why I have decided to create the online community “BetterTogether”. It will consist in regular challenges that we could all accomplish together, and sharing how we did it with others. I will also present the stories of people making a difference, so that anyone who needs some inspiration will be able to find some in that community. I want to focus in what unites us all, because that's what I am looking for in my travels. If all goes well, I will launch it before the end of the year.
Because every step counts.
"The world will be peaceful only when the people of the world are peaceful and happy. The change has to begin with each individual. If the jungle is withered and you want to restore it to life, you must water each tree of that jungle. If you want world peace, you ought to learn how to be peaceful yourself. Only then can you bring peace to the world."
- “S.N. Goenka”
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Grassroots Mobilizing.