Editorial: Big change can start small

Sometimes big changes come along and can seem to throw everything into upheaval. We may struggle to get our bearings back, or we may fight against the change. But sometimes we want change, and how to make it happen can seem daunting. There is often a trick – realizing that big change can start small.

For example, take a decision to start eating local or be healthier. That is maybe not a huge change, but anyone who has consciously tried it knows it can be more work than it seems. Throughout your life you’ve gotten into patterns and habits about what you eat and how you live, and suddenly changing them can be very difficult. Starting small can often be the trick – like going for a short walk, cutting out one food, or learning where to get another, and how to store it. If you take a few moments – just a few seconds of thought really – to consider before you make that choice, you can gradually change your habits. Then it’s not such a shock to your system, you don’t feel like you are missing anything, and you’ve started some new habits.

Getting involved in your community is often like that. If you start small, like volunteering for a few hours at an event, especially if it is doing something you like to do, you are helping, and you are also starting a bit of a habit. You get a chance to find out more about what is going on in your community, what issues people have and what issues people are already working on. You often get a chance to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise, and that is not only about making different friends, it’s about seeing different perspectives.

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll often hear about bad situations in other parts of the world, and you might wonder what you can do about it. Sometimes there is a fairly obvious way to help, like donating money to a relief organization, but sometimes people question if that is the best way to spend their money. Is this organization doing the best work they can? Is the money going to help those in need? Are there other problems being ignored that might be making things worse? These are tough questions.

Sometimes people donate their time and expertise, working on a facet of an issue they know they can help with. Sometimes people take on careers to do these specific things, or get involved in government to try to make things happen.

But some people think they are not able to do any of that. There are lots of reasons, or we could maybe call them excuses, but I don’t want to judge. Maybe they don’t have the money, or there are more urgent places for them to spend it. Maybe they are busy with other things, or they don’t have the confidence in themselves that what they could do will matter. Maybe they are scared they will fail, or that they will do something wrong or that someone will judge them.

The fact is there are a lot of situations – in our own community, in our own country, and around the world – that need change, or at least some help. I often hear people say “don’t complain about it if you are not going to do something about it,” but I think that is too quick a dismissal.

Sometimes we ignore things that are going on, because we don’t know how to change them – we don’t think we know enough, we think it’s going to be too difficult or that no one will listen to us. Or we just don’t have the time and the energy – there are just too many things to be done, in our own lives, and in the bigger world. We think we’ve found something that needs attention, and then some bigger issue, at least for the moment, pops up. One thing pushes out another.

But we have to start somewhere, and that could be one of many different places. Start small, do
something you know how to do, or just dive in and do something you’ve never done. Don’t be afraid to mess up – we all do. Sometimes you can only do so much. But sometimes all that is needed is for someone to start.

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