I believe that the world doesn’t need saving, it just needs seeing, the rest will follow…
I use to believe that I could save the world. I was raised with a healthy dose of idealism; the child of and idealistic man. He carried me on his shoulders as we protested erection of the 765kv Power Line through the corn fields of our neighbors’ farms. He sent me to a one room school with sayings by Mother Jones and Chief Seattle on the walls. He took me to see Tom Paxton and Arlo Guthrie. We protested apartheid in a shanty town on the campus of Cornell. The day John Lennon died I watched him cry. I grew to believe that I had the power, nay the responsibility, to save the world.
This premise played out okay in college. As my father pointed out then, it was the time in life when I could live most closely up to my own ideals. It was his warning. Academia is a universe of its own, filled with the perpetually changing faces of youthful idealism. I did not heed. With any child, there are some lessons that must be learned but cannot be taught. I graduated college and, like miscounting the steps of an oh-so familiar stairway, arms full of boxes I missed the last step and stumbled face first into a new reality. I moved New York City.
Unsheltered by familiar surroundings, I was overwhelmed and paralyzed. The world is a big place with far too many injustices for me to save it. Homelessness, hunger, racism, classism, language barriers: where would I even start?! Who am I to even decide what it means to be saved in the first place?! Beyond the questioning of my own ideals, I was struggling to find a job that would provide for my son and I. I was going through the first rocky steps of a relationship. I struggled to find my footing. I wasn’t even sure I still had feet.
Determined not to let the grand scale of New York overtake me, I did find my feet, and some comfortable shoes. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I fed the pigeons and tried to see how close they would come. I bought fruit and gave pieces to the homeless people. I became a regular at the bodega at the end of our block. I bought poetry from a man selling wisdom to straphangers on the A train. I opened my eyes to my new environment. In doing so, I began to find opportunities to make a difference.
Maybe it’s an evolution in philosophy pounded into shape by the hard rocks of adulthood, or maybe I’ve just grown up enough to understand what my father was trying to teach me all along. I can’t save the world, but I can see it, and in seeing, the rest will follow.
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