I cannot begin to count the times that I have heard people utter the following sentiment this year "These days, life is difficult" or a variation "Times are tough". Yes, I think it is true, in fact, I know it is true. All we have to do is open a newspaper and we can see that the world is in turmoil. We switch on the television and we are bombarded by reports about war, unrest, earthquakes, stock market crashes, starvation, animal slaughter, human trafficking, global poverty and human suffering. Prices of food, fuel, power, health and education is escalating at an alarming rate. The future seems bleak.
Yet, these times are no different from past times. History tells us the stories of war, famine, disaster and human misery, and the future will be no different. Times have always been hard, every generation has had its share, and hard times will always be with us. Then what IS different about these present hard times? The answer is this: you and I are here right now, and WE can make a difference. I think that is what life is all about, that is why you, why I, have been created - to make a difference.
Now most people reading here will think that to make a difference we have to do something major like instituting world peace or finding a cure for AIDS, developing new technology or invent something astounding. People often think that in order to make a difference they have to be someone important, somebody highly qualified, maybe a politician, a professor or a doctor. This is a fallacy. To believe this is to sit back and wait for somebody else to try to make a difference and then be ready to point fingers when they fail to do so.
The responsibility rest on every individual's shoulders to make a difference right where we are. Right there in my smallest circle of influence. No, it is NOT your family; it is YOU. You have to change the way you think about your role in life, your task. You have to change the way you react to things about you, you have to stop thinking about making a change, and start doing! Everything you or I do or don't do has a major impact on the world around us. You/ I have to be the difference you/I want to see in the world (quoting the great Gandhi).
"How?" I hear you ask. Simple, just by taking the time to care. We rush around every day trying to fit as much as possible into a day that we simply have no time left to really, genuinely care. We are too tired to care. We have no energy left to empathize or to have compassion. "But I do care" you cry out. You care about the misery you hear about and you pity the homeless and the sick. I have news for you; even the most selfish person has a spare thought of pity floating about. You see there is a difference between pity and compassion. Pity is a feeling, an emotion. Pity, is to feel sorry for someone or something, but compassion is a verb and it is a motivation. It stirs us beyond feeling sorry into taking action. Compassion is to reach out to someone and to do something to bring about change. When we start to identify with someone we become compassionate. We stop standing in judgement and start giving them a break, we look for and find the good in them. We start to relate to their story and we no longer pity them, but care about them. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that without compassion, humanity cannot survive. Compassion is as essential to mankind (and nature) as the air that we breathe.
However, before we start dishing compassion out by the bucket full, let us ask ourselves where does it all begin? In Gaza, Somalia or Iraq? The victimized in the DRC, the homeless or the AIDS orphans? The beggar on my street corner or my deaf and blind grandmother? No, first of all it starts with me! Before I can give compassion to others I have to give it to myself. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and believe in yourself. When we have compassion for ourselves, we can reach out to others with that same compassion. We can take their hands and together we can make these difficult times, this tough year, this hard life easier and happier. We can help each other colour the future in just a little brighter. Through caring we can transform our lives, the lives of others and ultimately the world.