There have been many, many times over the course of my life that heartbreaking stories have dominated news media (for varying lengths of time, whether it is minutes, hours, or days). At those times, I always look at everyone around me, and I read what people post on social media, or listen to what they are talking about over dinner. And every time I’m always surprised when anything but that news story comes up. I inevitably find myself asking the same question:
“Why doesn’t anybody care?”
When people are facing possible genocide in Aleppo, who cares about what movie ruled the box office last weekend? When there are bombings and shootings and other attacks and when horror and terror seem to rule, what does anything else matter?
I don’t mean to sound self-righteous. I do the same thing. I’m pretty sure the same day I wrote about Aleppo here last week, I called my mom to complain about the annoying commute home that day. And there have been plenty of serious news stories that I have ignored altogether.
I know I can’t fix the world, as much as I wish I could. And I know wrapping myself up in the tragedies that surround us doesn’t help anyone either – in part because the best way to beat horror and terror is to simply live. Live our lives in the best way we know how.
Although I’ve felt overwhelmed this week* and sick at the astonishing cruelty that human beings inflict on one another, I have to keep telling myself that there is also astonishing beauty and kindness. I believe that.
I also believe that we can use the astonishing beauty and kindness that humans are capable of to make the world better. And that leads us to the second part of this post.
I started coming up with a whole list of things that we can all do to make the world a better place but it started to feeling like preaching and nobody likes that. So yeah. Just be a good human? But I did want to share the one thing that I think that is undervalued as a way to improve the world.
How you can make the world a better place in 2017
Oy, what did you expect? Because I’m, you know, me. In all honesty though, I truly believe that if more people read regularly, the world would be a better place. One of the many reasons is because stories are lessons in empathy. And reading gives us practice being inside someone else’s head. If there is one thing 2016 taught me, it is that we often have a
lack of empathy. And guess what? Reading can help fix that. Not only that, but reading makes us smarter. Boom. Two birds. One stone. Reading can also help us get a better night’s sleep. And when we are not a Grumpy McGrump Face, that’s a better world for our roommates, friends, family, and coworkers. Three birds. AND reading can stave off Alzheimer’s, which means you will have more time and more resources to devote to improving the world. Four birds. And I’m just getting started.
Seriously, Google the benefits of reading and then I dare you to argue that it wouldn’t make the world a better place.
Oh look, I just Googled it for you.
Read. Read nonfiction. Read fiction. Read the news. Read to your kids (if you have kids). Read.
It’s an easy and tangible way you can make the world a better place.
*In a remarkable episode of the-universe-has-an-incredibly-twisted-sense-of-humor, I turned to a book to escape this malaise. The book was about Richard Lionheart, so you know the Crusades are just what the doctor ordered to restore your faith in humanity. Not. The two pages I read mentioned in passing an atrocious massacre, in which scores of men, women, and children were murdered. I couldn’t keep reading. It is a very good book but I had to put it down for the day.