In “Leaves of Grass,” Walt Whitman writes: “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy.” He continues, “Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem.’’
So there. If you’re looking for a worthwhile resolution, Whitman is not a bad place to start.
The task of improving the world may seem impossible, but it isn’t. All it takes is the proper sequence of correct discrete decisions. Decisions are just resolutions with teeth.
An editor of mine told me a story from his childhood on his grandparents’ farm in Iowa. The little boy, looking out over acres and acres of corn, asked his grandfather, “How are we going to shuck all that corn?” His grandfather said, “One row at a time.”
This, too, is how to improve the world. And we can start small.
Personally, I vow that I will frequently visit a children’s hospital and try to distract kids with stories, the funnier the better. I vow that I will phone every lonely person I know — and there are plenty — at least twice a week, just to chat and make them feel part of the living world. I vow to give alms to everyone who asks, and to those who don’t, and to stand up for the stupid and crazy, the stupider and crazier, the better. I promise to keep an eye out for strays (cats, dogs and people) and bring them safety and comfort. I vow to see every wrong as a menace, every wound an opportunity.
What will you do — right now, this week, this month — to make a better world? Stage a protest. Send a letter to right a wrong, or to proffer friendship. (A thoughtful, sympathetic letter to a friend in sorrow or distress is a powerful thing.) Lend a hand. Offer a word of comfort or inspiration or support or love. Donate money or, most valuable of all, time. There are so many ways to move this world, right within reach.