People lie, cheat, and steal. They shoot, kill, abuse, and destroy lives forever. People quickly choose sides and divide into rivaled ends to debate who’s at fault. Then we choose sides and divide. What? Another shooting? And this time in a preschool? It’s all so depressing! The news reminded me of these types of events every single day. I realize that life has always been this way, but I just hadn’t noticed. As a freshman in high school, I was in my own world trying to figure me out I suppose. When we’re young the Disney channel seems to protect us from this unfair and even cruel world, but then we all grow up. I grew up. I began to pay attention and woke up to see and hear many heavy truths about how the world works. It’s sad, but it’s so easy to get used to all the madness. It’s so difficult to express words, emotions, and find the right way to respond to such inequalities and devastations that are ever present every single day.
The harshness of how the world works is easy to see when you pay attention. It’s where we shop, buy phones, where we bank, buy cars, seemingly within all levels of government, and most definitely in our own neighborhoods. For every person acquiring wealth, there are many others struggling to survive. While kids go homeless, hungry, and schools struggle with resources in very particular neighborhoods, it’s astonishing to see how much the latest blockbuster movie made on opening weekend. We all need entertainment and to get away from our troubles, but it seems like our culture floods all avenues of media with news, drama, and commercials. They seem to do a great job at blurring the harsh reality that we all live in, while inequalities and devastations simply continue. All of this would get me down sometimes. Those around me often asked what was wrong, but I didn't know what to say.
I once asked someone about this and the answer I got was “It’s just how the world works”. It was a rough reality that I accidently accepted. Everyone else seemed to have accepted it. And then, it was done; I accepted what I saw in the news every day. I still wanted to know how and why everything works as it does. I asked again, but was simply told to stop watching the news. And so I did, I stopped watching, but what actually changed? Nothing. Still depressing! I quietly felt this way for years. As hopeless as I saw the world, I slowly began to see the world differently once I was exposed to a particular part of the world that I didn't know existed.
My best friend saw a flyer posted in the hallway to volunteer at a local elementary school. All we had to do was help kids with their homework a few times a week. I decided to tag along, but I didn't know that I would meet the person who would help me better understand how the world works. As I got familiar with the center I happen to notice a geology book titled, “How Earth Works” in Dr. B’s office. He is the director. I playfully asked, “Do you know how the world works”? He hesitated, but his simple response was “Yes, but it’s complicated”. For some reason I was intrigued by his response. From then on I talked to him every chance I had because I also noticed that he had books on philosophy, economics, psychology, and science in his office. He said that he liked reading. After several conversations, I finally developed the courage to talk to him about my thoughts and observations. I was nervous because I’d been let down before and didn't want to be a downer, but decided to push through. I told him about the devastations and inequalities that I noticed long ago. We were walking at the time. He stood motionless for a moment, as if he didn't know what to say. But he had much to say, much of which I will never forget. He acknowledged that the way I saw the world was real, but then he told me that there was a part of the world that I was missing. He said that people are fighting, and striving fiercely every single day in many ways to resist and prevent the harshness of how the world works. What came next was amazing advice that transformed my world-view, and me.
He said that for every person taking unfairly from others, there is another person looking to give back through service, empowering words, and good deeds. For every person not doing much in the world, there is a student learning something deeply to make a difference somehow, somewhere. For every liar using rhetoric as a mask, there are masses of people forming to use facts and true intellect to open minds, spread uplifting messages, and spark actions that matter in the world. For every crooked cop, there is an honest one keeping the blocks we walk safe. For every notably biased lawmaker, there are groups of people forming to expose them. For every person who tried to take a life, there is a doctor looking to save one. For every corrupt company choosing profits over people, there are savvy consumers buying from other companies that care about people. After flowing with so many examples he paused, stared at me for a brief moment and said, “find them”. He emphasized that they‘re out there and that it was my job to find likeminded people who are making the world better everyday.
I realized that I was right about how cruel the world is, but I was missing something big. The world is also filled with amazing people who do see the same inequalities that I saw, and they’re working relentlessly to make a difference. A lot of online questions and searching was the first step. After a while, this eventually led me to incredible people and organizations that are fighting for different causes and showing their love for humanity in endless ways. Their passions are evident in the work they do, but it’s very hard to take note of them because they get very small segments across all media. The devastations come easily when we’re on the couch or scrolling aimlessly through our phones, but the creation of all that is good is also out there once we learn where to look. After our conversation that day, I dedicated much time to “finding them”. I needed to figure out who they are and what they're doing. What causes did I care about? With time, I found the right authors, organizations and people who are contributing to the world in a meaningful way. I didn't just click or subscribe. My goal became to join them and learn from them so that I can contribute in my own way. I realize that my world-view no longer depends on what I see or hear on TV, online, or my phone. Now that I am an active part of various communities, I realize that where I choose to look and what I do alongside others with the same passions can actually change how our world works.
~ Lionel Baez