The first question to ask yourself is, "Do you care enough?"
For, when you hear the news of Syrian children victimized by a war they don’t understand or refugees holed up in overcrowded camps, migrants in Central America fleeing gang threats and people arrested all over the world because they disagree with their hardline governments – do you care?
Does your heart hurt?
Or, do you reason, “It’s not my problem?”
Why These Situations Should Matter to Us
Part of becoming a true interculturalist and a responsible global citizen is realizing a basic truth about humanity: When one hurts, we all hurt.
We should feel the pain. But, unlike those actually going through it, we should allow our empathy to move us to action to make a difference, even if in some small way. And we should be modeling this to our children, too.
True, cultivating a heart for people far away can be challenging. But allowing ourselves to just imagine – if even for a few minutes – what the person is going through by projecting yourself into his/her shoes – this produces greater empathy in us. When we come to grips with the truth of our shared humanity, not just in vague principles but at a very deep level in our hearts, we can change.
Our world needs more who care and act. Who love deeply, even those we may never meet. Our world is crying out. Will we respond?
Can You Do This Even If You Remain at Home?
We contend it is possible to have immense global impact from where you are, right now. While you may not be able to prevent the atrocities happening around our globe, you can be an international peacemaker no matter who you are, no matter where you are. And you can get involved in making our world a better place.
Here are 3 immediate steps you can take have global impact:
(1) Look within you. But don’t stop there.
Change begins with you. If you do not want to impact others beyond your family or small circle of friends, you won’t. You must first examine your heart and ask yourself, “What type of legacy do I want to leave?”
This can be a challenging question when you’re in your twenties. There’s just so much of life ahead. But it goes more quickly than you can imagine. Dr. Steven R. Covey’s famous principle, “Begin with the end in mind” bears mentioning here. If you don’t have a clear end goal to aim for, you won’t know what direction to head.
If you desire to have a long-term impact for good on the world – even on your small part of it – you must be intentional in that pursuit. Realize, it doesn’t come naturally. Being lazy and focusing on self comes naturally. Caring for others, especially those outside our immediate circle, takes effort. But the benefits? Powerful and lasting.
(2) Look around you.
Do not miss the people in your own neighborhood, classroom, workplace and local community. There are people in right where you are who could benefit from a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an interested posture.
View others as investments, not projects. What do I mean here? When you invest in others who are outside your immediate circle, they will wonder why you care. In some cases, they may even be suspicious. But if you answer their questions or suspicions with love, most times the results are powerful.
When you invest in other people, they gain and you gain.
This is not to say you should allow yourself to be sucked into thankless, energy-draining situations. When that happens, you need to set boundaries and stick to them. Be wise, frank, practical…and loving. It is the magic mixture!
Near and dear to my heart is the opportunity we have to reach out to the nations in our midst. Did you know that over one million international college, university and graduate students venture to the U.S. alone every single year? (And there are several other destination countries as well.) They are current and future leaders. And they’re in many of our backyards.
Yet, sadly, statistics show that over 80% of these young internationals never make it into an American home, even for a simple meal. You could change that, and here’s how.
Even if partnering with International Students, Inc. is not the right fit nor possible for you, exploring opportunities directly with schools in your town or city may open up doors to relationships you may have never imagined. Try it!
(3) Give strategically and consistently. And generously, as you are able.
If you are reading this post, most likely you have means, even if they are modest. And, most likely, you have a heart that understands the impact for good we can have through our giving. Still, it helps to think in strategic terms. How can we make our dollar (or yen, or peso or rupee) go as far as it can?
I will simply share a couple ways we have done it. First, through sponsoring children in a developing country. In our case, all of our kids were in the Philippines, and we sponsored them through Partners International. The experience of doing this had powerful impact upon our children, who wrote letters back and forth with their match kid for years. We even got the chance to meet them and their families! For at least one of our kids, it has had a life-changing, perspective-changing impact. (So, impact in both directions, really.)
Second, through KIVA. One year when my kids were quite young and KIVA was new, I received a generous birthday gift of $100. Instead of going out and spending it, I took my three kids to a coffee shop and explained KIVA to them. Each one chose a person they wanted to sponsor with their $25, and I did the same. We have been “recycling” our KIVA loans ever since. Because all four of us have done this, I would estimate we’ve been able to impact 25–30 lives over the course of almost a decade!
The Key is Small Scale
Of course, if you're a large-scale person, go for it! But for most of us, trying to take on the world from your living room can seem overwhelming. So, really, the answer is in small, consistent and impacting steps. One at a time.
Small scale. I love it! Both child sponsorships and KIVA offer that. And so does another organization called Help One Now. Their approach is so hands-on, and they give tons of ideas on their website and through the founder’s book, Doing Good is Simple, to make it a viable step for almost anyone to take. Bake sales, garage sales, car washes? Yes, they can help others nearby and around the world!
Never think you can’t have a global impact. Never think the problems are “out there!” We are all connected. We need to find ways to rise about the problems together. That “rising tide” should not just lift a few boats, but all.
It makes sense. For us personally. And for our world.
What next step can you take?