by Lance Wright- Reflections from p. 1-2 of The World Needs Your Kid by Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger and Shelley Page.
The Dalai Lama once gathered a diverse group of activists and asked: "What is the greatest challenge facing our time?" Answers included: poverty, peace in the Middle East, genocide, the gap between rich and poor, education of children, and the threat of nuclear anihiliation. After contemplating the answers, the Dalai Lama said,"The greatest challenge facing our time is not weapons of mass destruction or terrorism or ethnic cleansing. It is that we are raising a generation of passive bystanders."I consider myself part of the generation of passive bystanders. When I was a teen, I remember being afraid of nuclear war, but beyond that, I didn't feel a connection to the greater challenges on planet earth – let alone know what those challenges might be. I was mostly concerned about my hair, my sports, friends and mostly just doing what I wanted to do. Decades later, it seems there are more young people who care beyond their own wants, but the words of the Dalai Lama do resonate with what I see around me.
Taking the trouble to get informed and find something helpful to do somehow feels less appealing than playing a video game and passing time on social media. Helping and caring and all that good stuff is awesome, but in the end, relaxing with a movie or a good snack is so much more attractive. We do care. We really do. But our care gets buried somewhere between our good intentions and our endless distractions.
Our world can feel pretty overwhelming. So much information. So many people. So many ideas. So many problems. It can all feel like one big noise. And we can't solve all the problems around us, so we check out. We tune out. We stop dreaming about a better world because we get so comfortable with the world as it is. And nothing changes.
Recently a picture surfaced of a 3 year old boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey. His family were refugees fleeing dangerous fighting in their neighbourhood. Relatives in Canada were prepared to sponsor the family, but the application was denied. The picture of the boy sparked outrage and lit up conversations on social media and calls for countries to make room for more refugees. A family I know personally responded by sponsoring a refugee family. More than one church I know stepped up by sponsoring a family. There was new energy for caring and welcoming those who desperately need a new home. It was awesome and I hope the new wave of support for refugees sticks. But will it? I hope that we don't need to see another disturbing picture before we remember how much we care and how much good we can do.
I'm afraid that we talk ourselves out of too many things. We underestimate the good that we can do. We too often think of ourselves as bystanders. But do we really want to sit in the stands with our popcorn and watch? Or do we want to get in the game and change the score? I think deep down we all want this. And ya, we can't fix everything and the world is noisy and overwhelming, but we can do a lot of good. So instead of thinking about what we can't do, I say we focus on what we CAN do, starting with one thing. One thing we care about and can learn about and talk about. An idea we can try. Then we'll be doing one more good thing than before and we won't be a bystander.