I had not even entered my teen-aged years, but I knew that this country faced a crisis. The television newscaster echoed the pain and concern as I sat and wondered what would happen to the country. What would happen to me? Was the country disintegrating? Was there any hope?
The problems that we faced as a country seemed insurmountable in the mind of a young boy who sat there as a witness to these tragic events. As bad as it seemed, it would be only a short thirteen months later before a different, more hopeful event took place on that same television screen. On July 20, 1969 Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I remember the words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Watching Neil Armstrong leap from the lunar module onto the surface of the moon seemed surreal. How could we go from the assassinations of idealistic leaders to an amazing technological feat like the landing on the moon?
As I look back on those days, I am amazed at the contrast between devastation and triumph. I wasn’t able to reflect much on it at the time, but now through the lens of retrospection I can see the affect it had on a nation, on the world. How can the human race sink to such despicable lows and then rise to such grand achievements? Within each person exist the possibilities of both. It is our task to rise to the heights of “our better angels” in order to make a difference, both in the affairs of the world and in the activities of our daily lives.
The desire to make a difference is ingrained in most people. There is a general sense that we want live differently than others. This means different things to different people but the hope that we will leave the world in a little better condition than we found it is something that motivates many people. Of course there are exceptions but even the terrorist who straps a bomb on his body and heads out to crowded city market is motivated by the hope that somehow, no matter how misguided, there sacrifice will have been worth the loss and devastation.
History is littered with the stories of people who have sought after their own gain at the expense of others. There is no getting around the fact that people with good will are not found everywhere. But if you have picked up this book, you are probably numbered with the great number of people who are interested in making a difference, leaving the world in a little better shape than you found it.
Humans are capable of tremendous good in the world. Like Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., many people look at the conditions around them and say enough is enough. Equipped with whatever they have in their hearts and in the skills that they have acquired, they take action that leads to change. Other people, whose names have been lost to history, have also found dissatisfaction in what they face and have been motivated to do something about it. These men and women are schoolteachers who finally get fed up with all the bureaucracy of public education and move out from underneath the tyrannical forces that keep children from learning and do something about it. These people are small business owners who know that operating their business is more than just making a profit so that they can enjoy creature comforts. They know that their work can make a difference for both their employees and customers. They break through the all the forces that work against their success: governmental interference, high taxes and discouragement, to do something different, never satisfied until they make a breakthrough. These people work in the public square, private industries, non-profits and even the Church. These are not remarkable people yet they do remarkable things. Without the desire to improve the world, no matter if that affects many or a few, then change and improvement would never happen.
Are you dissatisfied with the world? What are you doing to change it? Where is God calling you to make a difference?