This I Believe

T.J. - Sparta, North Carolina
Entered on May 31, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65


For several years I puzzled over the question, how can one individual make the world a better place? It was a big question I looked at with skepticism. The hardest part was taking the world to be the earth’s entire population. One morning I was walking from the office to the courthouse, passing in front of the hardware store when it came that my world is the only world that figures in my life. This moment shifted the meaning of the world from the unknown to the familiar.

My world I know intimately. It’s the people I live among, the people I see in the course of a day, the people I know, relatives and friends, even pets. It’s a small world, one I’m used to and know well. It’s my life.

Applying the principle, you get what you give, I can turn what comes back to me more to my liking when I regard others to their liking. Treat them respectfully as valid human beings and they regard me the same. Right away, nearly all the people I saw in a day validated my value as a human being as I validated theirs.

A friend important in my world said that when we met I changed her life to the better by accepting her for who she is. She claimed no one ever did that before. I was not aware of it. I just received her as I like to be received, for who I am.

I believe it possible to make my world a better place by helping as I’m able with friends and neighbors. An elderly man four miles down the road went through a long period of despair when his wife suddenly left him without explanation. His grief was worse than for a death. Death has finality. I couldn’t help his grief, but could do something about his loneliness.

Over the last three years I stop by to see him for an hour on the way to work in the morning for coffee, and often in the evening. It gives him at least one person to talk with in the twenty-four hours of a day. I discovered in the course of our conversations and our growing friendship that this is the only man I’ve ever known I would call wise without hesitation, a tractor mechanic and bluegrass banjo picker. My learnings from him are among the most valuable of my life. He doesn’t know he taught anything. He can make as good a case for himself a fool as I can for his wisdom. So I call him the wise fool.

I could not have known either of these people as friends before the day I realized that my world is the place where I can make a difference for the better. Simple caring helps the people around me feel better about themselves, and their caring in turn helps me feel better. The world becomes a better place.