The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


When I was a child I realized that I had different interests than the kids who were my classmates or whom I knew in the neighborhood.  That is not to say that they were better or worse than my friends and acquaintances  – merely that they were “different.”

I wasn’t concerned about who had the prettiest “aggie” marble.  Or who had the best collection of baseball cards or the biggest collection of dolls.  I was concerned about the meaning of my life – and I still am.

I think I was about ten when I began pondering the imponderable – “Why am I here and what does my life mean?”  (I’m still working on that).  But I took stock.  I realized that I had at least a few talents and wondered how I might utilize those to change the world.

People always found me to be physically “cute or adorable.”  But cute and adorable didn’t make me a ravishing beauty – certainly not of Hollywood stature.  So depending on my physical appearance didn’t seem to be the way to change the world.

I was “smart” – but compared to an Isaac Newton or a Leonardo da Vinci or Albert Einstein, I was pretty much “run-of-the-mill.”  So sheer genius didn’t seem to be my avenue to change the world.

Then there was politics.  But unless I were Queen of England or President of the United States – I doubted that I would have a great deal to say about changing the world.

I was an excellent pianist – but without the genius of a Vladimir Ashkenazy or an Anton Rubenstein or Alicia de la Rocha.  I believed that I would be unable to offer the world anything with my musical  semi-brilliance.

So how would I change the world?  Would my comings and goings for however short or long a time make any difference?  My ten year-old mind continued to ponder the un-ponderable and I remember becoming quite depressed.

But then, after a wonderful meal of oxtail stew that grandma had prepared, comforted with this warm and filling food I hit on an idea.  It was something that I could achieve – and as much as dinner had filled my belly – this idea filled my mind.

I could change the world! 

If I could extend kindness and courtesy, love and compassion to only two people during the course of my lifetime which would enable those two to become better people than they otherwise might be; and if those two people could do the same and the following four do the same and then the eight and then the sixteen and … well you see where this is going.  I had an opportunity to do something important.  I could change the world.

Each of us makes his mark as we go through life.  The question we must face, deep down to the roots of our being, is not whether we can change the world – but in what way shall we accomplish our task?

Comments on: "ON CHANGING THE WORLD" (15)

  1. I have always liked the expression, practice random acts of kindness. I think you are on to something.

  2. I certainly hope so. It’s been my driving force for many years.

  3. You sound just like my dad!
    Something about that oxtail stew that will put it all into perspective, isn’t there? 🙂

    • There’s something about comfort food that is – well, comforting – and thought provoking.

      Most of us Americans have no idea how priviliged we are. And it’s a pity that we’re squandering what we have received.

      • I whole-heartedly agree. It drives me into madly depressive states. And then I come out fighting, mad as hell. Right now, in more of a fighting stage.

      • juwanna your writing looms as an island of peace in the rough seas of conflict–quality and focus on doing the right thing wherever one is..that’s all there is..and yes, one person at a time can multiply enough of the good to offset the not so fine on earth..
        jennifer, i whole-heartedly feel happy to meet you on that path also.

      • Thank you, Nadine for taking your time to leave your kind comment. One day at a time, one person at a time. Together we can do something important and meaningful.

      • @ Nadine—always a pleasure running into you!

  4. One of my favorite hymns as an organist began, “Fight the good fight with all of thy might.”

    Keep on fighting, Jennifer.

  5. i think this is my favorite story so far pure genius!!!!!

  6. I think it’s mine too. Thanks for your enjoyment, Deb. (Pass it on).

  7. While my life work experience has been centered on business administration I was fortunate enough in that time to be given the side opportunity to teach. As I read your blog and considered your concluding remarks it reminded me of my feelings as a teacher. To watch people grow intellectually and professionally is one of the greatest of of priveleges, and then to see them take their place as leaders in their chosen professions later is a life lasting satisfaction.

    • Your remarks remind me of the reason that, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” is one of the classic movies of all time.
      But even those of us who have never formally “taught” do teach. Parents teach their children through their words but more importantly through their actions. And all of us teach those with whom we interact by the way we treat each other. What an opportunity we all have to make this a gentler world.

  8. Well said! I’m totally with you on this!

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