Excerpted from Great Work
If I look at the mass I will never act.
If I look at the one, I will.
—Mother Teresa, Saint and the founder of the
Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor
In 2013, after over 23 years in business, I felt as if sustainability in organizations had reached a tipping point. The Wall Street Journal was talking about it; the largest businesses in the world were pursuing sustainability at least to the extent of publishing sustainability reports. They were now pushing on their suppliers. Research was showing that companies focusing on sustainability had better stock prices. The traditional interests in profits were aligning with the needs of the world. It was time to find another leverage point in the system.
So now I’m focusing on getting sustainability embedded into the school system, a field called Education for Sustainability. Again, I had to struggle with my role. I wasn’t a schoolteacher; I didn’t even have my own children. I wasn’t well positioned to influence the public school system. But after a year of poking around, I have found a way. So now I’m onto Sustainability Calling 3.0 after gathering around me compatriots who fill in my weaknesses.
So this is what it may be for you. Find something you care deeply about and poke around until you find your role in solving that problem. I promise you, it’s there.
We [the Chinese] would be outraged if people were killing our pandas,
we should be just as upset with
what’s happening to rhinos and elephants in Africa.
—Yao Ming, former basketball star,
now WildAid Ambassador fighting poaching[i]
You don’t have to be an adult to do this inner work. Angela Maiers, educator and founder of the burgeoning Choose2Matter movement, has her students map their “heart-break.” She instructs them:
Do not follow your heart to find your passion and purpose. Instead follow your heartbreak . . . Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you.[ii]
This thinking has led to a string of inspiring stories about children that have been highlighted in such media as NBC Nightly News and Parenting Magazine:
- Christian Golczynski, a teenager still grieving the loss of his father during the Iraq war, started A Soldier’s Child Foundation that gives out holiday and birthday gifts to other children who lost parents during active duty.[iii]
- Vanessa Segaline, while a Girl Scout, started a food bank for pets.
- Ten-year-old Abigail Lupi discovered many elderly in nursing homes don’t get visitors so she serenades them with her lovely voice.[iv]
- And of course, Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, puts her life on the line to support the rights of Pakistani girls, and then of all children around the world, to go to school.
If kids can take on their ‘heart-break’ and make a difference, perhaps more of us grown-ups should too.
[i] Ming, Yao (4 September 2012) Yao Ming Blog: Yao’s Journey to Africa. WildAid. Retrieved from http://yaomingblog.com/
[ii] Davis, Vicki (November 11, 2014) “Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers” Edutopia.
[iii] NBC Nightly News () Making a difference. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40153870/#53886439
[iv] Cooper, Andrea (n.d.) “8 Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference. Parenting Magazine. http://www.parenting.com/gallery/kids-who-make-difference