Who Am I To Save The World?

earth

As a naive young college graduate in the late 1990s, I can remember actually telling people who interviewed me as I embarked upon a career in the nonprofit sector that I wanted to help save the world, or something like that. Nearly 20 years later, I look back on my career in human services and wonder if I have actually made any difference at all, let alone save the world. Yes, I have touched thousands of lives, listened and offered understanding, created opportunities, made visible and tangible positive changes, and stuck my neck out to get a result that would otherwise be impossible given the intricacies and bureaucracies of nonprofit and government systems. But during that time, is the world really any better off? And if it is, can I really claim to have had any influence at all?

Who am I to save the world? And who am I to determine that the world is in need of saving in the first place?

I wonder what the world would be like today if I had chosen a career in banking, or real estate, or hospitality, or marine biology instead. Would the world be any different? Would the lives of those thousands of people be the same, or even better off that they are as a result of my intervention?

We can never truly know what the impact of our actions will be. We can only act with a hopeful heart filled with love. If we all did that, all of the time, imagine how beautiful the world might be.

Forager, Farmer, Fool

A straw bale

About 13 years ago, a good friend told me that I should just do one thing if I wanted to be successful. As I approach my 40th birthday, what he said to me all of those years ago is finally starting to make sense.

I have approached much of my life as a hunter-gatherer. With insatiable curiosity and a strong desire to learn and do as much as possible, I exposed myself to many different kinds of ideas and experiences. I dabbled in a multitude of areas, leaving many projects incomplete. For example, I have always been a writer and have long wanted to seek a publisher for one of my books. As I sort through old computer files, I find half written book proposals, lists of agents who have never been approached, and the remnants of a clever and ambitious girl who just couldn’t focus on one thing at a time.

While being a hunter-gatherer may not have resulted in me fully articulating and achieving all of my goals, it certainly has made me a wiser and more interesting person. I have foraged my way through the bounty of life, feeding my soul with a rich feast of ideas. Within me is the depth and breadth of one hundred ordinary people. Ordinary people who are, admittedly, enjoying the fragrant blossoms of the single seed they have planted and lovingly tended for so many years. So while I feel a certain level of smug self-satisfaction and gratitude for the life I have lived, I also feel a bit of regret and remorse for everything that has been left behind in my feeding frenzy. I feel it is time to transition from surviving to thriving, from languishing to flourishing.

I, too, have planted many seeds in my life. Thousands of them. A brilliant idea here, a dream for tomorrow there. But I abandoned those seeds for sparkling meadows and alluring forests. The seeds were left behind in the wrong places, not planted deep enough into the earth, untended and unloved. Quantity over quality, exposure but never intimacy.

As I enter the fifth decade of my life, I am drifting back through fond foraging memories to glean those that most deeply resonate with the person I am today, the person I always was but hadn’t quite discovered yet, the person I will always be. Those memories will shape the farm of my future, the place that will be my home, my salvation, a reflection of my most significant commitments to myself and to this planet. I will continue to plant seeds, but will do so selectively and with the intention of offering my love and attention through the last blossom, from season to season.