I have never thought of myself as someone who wants or needs power. I could not think of anything worse for me than being an elected official in high office, responsible for making decisions which impact the whole country or the world. ‘Best left to the experts’ has usually been my approach to that. Lately I have been paying more attention to world affairs than usual. For the first time ever I have thought about how good it would be if I could spread the message of inclusion, respect, kindness and my own brand of what I call ‘gentle power’ around the world and make things kinder and less frightening. These thoughts are odd little day dreamy fantasies which will never result in any action on my part. Even so, lately I have felt powerless and redundant and that I need to do more.
On Monday something happened which got me reconsidering my feelings of powerlessness, thanks to a lovely person who told me that she was still in the world because of something I did. Of course what I did was only a part – I can’t take credit for her positive choice. I spent all of the next day reflecting on the idea that something I did and said had resulted in somebody being in this world who wouldn’t otherwise have been. I reflected on how happy I was but also how responsible we are to the people we share our lives with in whatever way – significant or minor.
I thought abut this notion of responsibility for those around us. I go through life with a smile on my face mostly. I try to be kind to everyone. I choose to be thoughtful and helpful where I can. This isn’t because I’m a saint. It s because I spent five years of my life taking – from society as a criminal and a recipient of a lot of tax expenditure, from my family by causing them endless, unimaginable stress and worry and from individuals by being aggressive, demanding and needy. This shadow me did so much taking that that when I decided to change I made a couple of choices. One was that I would no longer take but give and the other was that I would understand how human beings ‘worked’ as well as I could and make sure that every interaction I had was positive and helpful. I think mostly it worked. Every day many people at my workplace – which employs around 2000 people – smile and say hello. I have to not focus too closely on comments on my social media because people are frequently telling me how I have helped them and I don’t want to get a big ego. The world at the moment is a really lovely place to be me and I owe this largely to making those positive decisions about my direction many years ago.
And this takes me to the changing the world conundrum. People who espouse gentle power do not generally take on positions of world leadership. I will never change the whole world with one big pronouncement or action and I really don’t want to. But the other day I helped to change the world for one person and those who know and love her by my actions and care, meaning she made the excellent choice to stay with us. I only know of this one case of me being influential in such a decision but I now wonder if that has been the case for others too. I won’t ever know and I don’t desperately need to.
So yes, I changed the world. We actually all change the world by being in it. We change the world for our family and for those we love. We change the world for our pets and our colleagues and people we see in the supermarket. I know it sounds trite and there are any number of silly movies about this idea but it is actually true on some level. When I decided to no longer be a criminal and a negative person I decided that I wanted to just do to other people what I would like done to me and conversely to not do things to others which I wouldn’t want them to do to me. That is a simple – and in my case very effective – premise.
And that’s what I do to change the world and that is meaningful. Leave it how you found it, do no harm and just be good to people. I found once I started to help not hinder it wasn’t all that difficult and my life since then has been a lot happier, meaning I have gained benefit too.
I’ll finish with a thought I had in conversation with my Dad a while back. We were talking about what to do when there is evil in the world. We discussed Nazi occupied Europe and I said that people who hid those trying to escape from that horrific regime did not change the geographical or political world but for those they hid, they changed their entire world. So let’s go change the world.