This I Believe

Coert - Ithaca, New York
Entered on May 11, 2006

“THIS I BELIEVE”

I believe that we should “try” to make the world a better place.

As a boy in the 1960’s my family used to go trailer and tent camping in the majestic Pacific Northwest.

Upon preparing to leave each campsite we visited my parents told us that we should try to leave it in better shape than when we arrived. Not to leave it the way it was, but to try to leave it in better shape than it was. This credo also required that in the cleaning up of the campsite we do something kind for the campers who would come after us; tidy the rocks around the fire pit, collect a small pile of dry kindling, remove the obtrusive pebbles from the tent site or place a good sitting stump near the campfire.

As I grew up this mission was repeated at hotel rooms, relatives homes and even, I remember, in public bathrooms.

Later, I understood that this was really a statement about life and my parents’ hope for how I would live mine.

My parents are Christian political activists who have a commitment to social justice, economic equality and world peace that was reinforced on both sides of the family for generations. I understood at an early age that “perfection” is the province of the Divine; and that the life of Christ is an allegory for “trying,” for attempting to do what is right while knowing that we can never achieve perfection. But, at the same time, I was taught that our inability to achieve perfection is no excuse for not trying; that, on the contrary, it is in the “trying” that the world becomes perfect.

As human beings we will never leave the world the way it was when we came, nor should we. Neither God nor humanity want us to. We are born to “try” to leave the world in better shape than when we arrived.

Making the world a better place means different things to different people. It can be big things like demonstrating to stop wars, fighting for racial tolerance or organizing a labor union; and it can be small things like helping an elderly neighbor clean his roof gutters or assisting a stranded motorist. But above all else, we should use our lives, each day, to make the world a better place as each of us understands what that means.

I can only hope that through how I have lived I have shown my family, my children, my co-workers, my country and my world that I have made an effort to live up to my belief.

None of us are perfect and we never will be. But all of us have the ability to “try” to make the world a better place. All of us have the ability to clean our campsite, straighten the rocks around the fire pit and leave a small pile of dry kindling for the next generation.