When I was 16, I joined the school council and fought for kids' rights and freedom of speech. People said it was because I was a Libra, but the teacher who coordinated my school's leadership programs (school council, school newspaper and class representatives) told us we were the future and what we were doing was very important. We wrote protest poems, listened to Joan Baez, negotiated with school authorities to make sure our education went beyond learning math and literature and made a big difference in the life of our fellow students.
Our teacher, Reuben, said that although we felt small and helpless sometimes, we were strong and if we kept focusing on making "just a small difference" every day, we would create big change over time.
When we suffered personally for representing other students (and that happened often), he said, "Leaders are there to protect and be the voice of those they lead. To become leaders, you first need to change your closest circle". The way he described it, to be a leaders, you need to have a sense of justice, to be caring, resilient and courageous, to be creative and to have social skills (funny, he said nothing about being good at Math).
For years later, I wondered about my role as a leader. Even during my military service and my higher education, I was at the center representing the weak. I took my high school experience and turned it into a profession. Special Education was my way of representing those who were different. Every day, enhancing the lives of many kids, I lived my purpose of making a difference.
When my first daughter was born, I put a lot of effort and thought (and fun) into parenting her. I realized that parenting was another way of living this purpose and making this world a better place. Every new thing she learned, every time she was just and considerate, every time she was open and accepting, I walked like a proud peacock that through her, I would keep making a difference, even years after I depart.
When my "making a difference" tank was quite full from making a difference to my own world (teaching, coaching and parenting are great and fast ways to fill this tank), suddenly it was not good enough anymore. It seemed small and insufficient. I wanted to make a difference in my daughters' life so she could make a difference in her world and inspire others to make a difference too and the cycle will never end.
This year, when visiting schools around Australia with the "Together for Humanity" program, I found out that kids, both primary and high school age, feel helpless in about making a difference in the world around them even in their immediate environment of home, school and friends. We run a workshop about the power of working together and the importance of making a difference and, although the kids understand, they have no idea how they can make a difference in their life. Depressing, isn't it?
I think our job as parents is to convince our kids that they can (for the complete parents' job description, see over 400 posts on this blog)! Every day! I believe we need to show our kids that if they start focusing on themselves and on what they can do in their daily life to make a change, they will be able to make a difference on a larger scale - just like a ripple effect. Kids are like drops of water, tiny and meaningless, until they realize that the ocean is made of many tiny drops just like them.
50 simple things to make a difference in the immediate circle of influence
Here is a list of things you can encourage your kids to do to make a difference in the world. Yes, they start with their own home and class (where they spend most of their time) and when they master influencing this circle, it will be easier for them to do things in their neighborhood and school, then in their town or city and finally in the world.
- Love your family (including your siblings)
- Be kind to animals
- Turn off the tap when washing teeth
- Take shorter showers
- Participate in Earth Hour. It is fun
- Have a family Earth Hour of your own once a month
- Have family dinners together
- Plant herbs in your back yard or in a pot
- Have a compost bin
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room
- Turn off electric appliances (computers, TV…)when you finish using them
- Tell your parents if you find a leak in the house
- Pick up rubbish
- Put food wrappers in the bin
- Clean after yourself
- Donate your unused clothes to charity
- Say good things about people
- Give compliments
- Say "Thank you" to show appreciation
- Say "Sorry" to stay in good relationships
- Accept other people's apologies
- Take a deep breath before you say anything you might regret
- When you are angry, use words to express yourself and say, "I am angry" before using your hands
- Encourage others
- Be fair
- Include other kids in your games
- Be friendly towards everyone around you
- Help others
- Offer help when you see there is a need, even without being asked
- When you do not know how to help, ask, "How can I help?"
- When you help others, do not expect a reward. Feeling good is a great reward
- Listen to others when they talk
- Speak politely
- Tell people you love how much you love them
- Tell your parents how much you appreciate them
- Share your things with others
- If you hear something bad about others, stay away from the gossip and say, "I don't say bad things about people behind their back"
- When you notice injustice towards others, speak out!
- Call your grandparents and tell them about your adventures - you will make a huge difference in their lives
- Walk, skate or ride a bike instead of riding a car
- Help your parents take care of your house
- Go to a cultural festival and experience different cultures
- Be a role model for your siblings
- Be a buddy at school for younger kids
- Plant trees around your house
- Fix broken things if you can
- Put papers in the recycling bin
- Share your lunch with a friend who forgot his or hers
Here is what one (very talented) kid decided to do to make a difference. If you can sing, paint, write or act, maybe you can do something like this too:
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Keep making a difference,