Monday, August 18, 2008

How To Change The World

Last year (or maybe the year before, I don't keep track of these things), John Mayer came out with a song called "Waiting On The World To Change." It's a discourse on how powerless his generation feels in the face of all they disagree with on the world stage (war, government etc) and so since they think they're powerless, they're just waiting on the world to change, perhaps waiting until the generations above them have all died off or retired and no one is left to run the world but this one dissatisfied generation of waiters.

The lyrics have always rubbed me the wrong way and I'll tell you why. There are many things that need attention in this world--hunger, war, genocide, child slavery, illiteracy, stupid or selfish people maintaining positions of power, disinformation--you can add to the list all you want, the end result is the same: turn your eyes in any direction and you'll see something that needs to be done.

Mr. Mayer says this:

Now we see everything that's going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It's hard to beat the system
When we're standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

I believe we have three choices when confronted with something that breaks our heart. One, we can do nothing. Take Mr. Mayer's words to heart and stand around wringing our hands, decrying how helpless we are. Two, we can turn away and pretend we never saw. Or three, we can roll up our sleeves, wade into the fray, and meet the need or stand for the cause that is right in front of us.

Powerlessness, for most of us, is a state of mind. We don't live in huts made of mud and straw. We haven't lost our family to our own government's machine guns. We haven't been abandoned at a bus stop as an infant because we had the gall to be born a woman. We aren't afraid speaking our minds will land us in prison. We can read. We have the basics necessary for survival. We don't choose between feeding our children and feeding ourselves.

We aren't powerless unless we choose to be. We can change the world, one piece at a time, if we do what is right in front of us. If we speak up, stand up, get up, open up--own a vision for the change we want to see and go after it with single-minded dedication.

One of the most inspiring examples of this is 23 year old Lopez Lomong, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. When he was 6, he was kidnapped from his village. He escaped by tunnelling under a wire fence and traveling across Sudan and over the Kenyan border, ending up at refugee camp. Can you imagine doing that at 6?

He lived in hiding at the refugee camp for ten years. One day, after being paid a few shillings to do a landscaping job, he hiked five miles to the home of a man charging an entrance fee to those who wanted to watch the Sydney Olympics on his black and white television.

Lopong was captivated by the sight of Michael Johnson running for gold in the 400 meters. This was his first introduction, not just to the Olympics, but to the idea of running as a sport. That day, Lopong decided he would change his life. He decided he would compete at the Olympics as a runner, under the American flag.

That day, Lopong stopped being a Sudanese refugee and became a future American Olympic athlete. His outside circumstances were the same. It was the inside that was changed. Eight years later, Lopong not only competed at these Beijing Olympics as a runner for America, he carried the American flag in the opening ceremonies.

It gets better.

Lopong is not content to see his own life change without reaching back to save more Sudanese children from growing up in refugee camps as he did. He is part of Team Darfur, a group of athletes using their status to raise awareness of the plight of Sudan.

How did Lopez Lompong go from kidnapped, traumatized 6 year old boy to raising awareness for his country on the most prominent international platform available?

He refused to lament the problems in his government without taking action. He believed he could rise above his present circumstances and be whoever he set his mind to be. He did not stand at a distance, waiting on the world to change. He got in the world's face and said, "Hey! Listen up!"

And we did.

So, with respect to John Mayer's disillusioned generation of powerless future leaders, may I use the shining light of Lopez Lompong's life to say, with conviction, we are only powerless if we choose to be.

Let's stop waiting on the world to change and be the change we want to see.

My vision for change is my passion for adoption--educating others, facilitating the process for others if there's any way I can help, and most of all, completing my own family with as many orphans as God has written on my heart.

What's yours?


  1. Damn it. I've always liked that song. Now I'll never be abel to listen to it the same.

  2. Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs...
    But anyway, is it possible that the song is being sarcastic? Condemning a lazy generation? [I don't know the song, so...]
    But to answer the I'd like to change intolerance. Of all the big issues: religion, races, orientation, cultures, etc. Seems like we'd get a lot more done in terms of change if we didn't hate unchangeable issues right off the bat.

  3. My passion is wolves. I am a member of Defenders of Wildlife and BioGems, and regularly sign petitions and send emails, etc., to our government about the slaughter of wolves and other things happening to America's wildlife.

    I am also a Life Skills Mentor for at-risk Native American teens. Part of my job includes education on going green, world issues, and discovering what they can do within their community to help themselves and others like them. I recently had this talk with one of the girls I mentor, about how I see "community." It begins with her local "rez" community, then spreads into the cities surrounding the rez, and then the state, the country, and finally, the global community. We are, after all, a community on this planet. Change starts with what you are able to do within your community, whether it be local or global. Education is the key to changing ignorance. I talk about this stuff all the time with the kids.

    Also, my husband and I would like to adopt someday. =) Why does it have to be so dang expensive?

  4. Peter- I don't find any sarcasm in the lyrics but you're welcome to google the song and decide for yourself. =) And you make a good point. It's hard to make a impact if we're busy hating people for our differences.

    Jinx- I love to hear that you're a Life Skills Mentor. I didn't know those existed, but what a wonderful opportunity to change a young girl's life!

    As for adoption being expensive...don't I know it. It's worth it, though. I was at a seminar once and the speaker asked us to imagine one of our kids was diagnosed with an illness that would take their life in six months. How would we feel? Then imagine there was a cure but it would cost 10,000 and insurance didn't cover it. Could you come up with the 10,000 in six months?

    Without a doubt. That helped me reach beyond the "box" and see other ways we could bring in the money. We did a lot of fundraising and our friends all helped with that. It's amazing how many people will support you when they understand it's for a child.

  5. I actually love that song. But, I think like everything, words are subjective, we each take something from what we read and say.

    I look at that song, and see a call to arms. I think it's a judgement against those who are just sitting and doing nothing.

    What's my change?

    Honestly, I'm not sure. I think at a surface level, simply trying to be a better person is a start. Change starts from within. We can't change the world till we change ourselves. That's what inspires those immediately around us to do something more.

    Secondly, getting involved. Like with Soldier's Angels. It's something small, writing a soldier I don't know, sending him monthly care packages that he shares with his unit. But, maybe it makes a difference.

    I'm not a big picture person, I'm all about the little details. I'll let the super heroes worry about the big picture. I'll take care of the little minute details that people miss. Maybe at the end of my days, I won't have made a huge impact. But I figure that if there is one person who says that I made their life better when I'm gone, I did something right.

  6. Great post.

    My passions are finding ways to stop the conflicts in places like Darfur and ways to help the people there.

    Also closer to home to help with the little talked about issue of homeless teens right here in America.


  7. Complacency... the American way of life! Now go get me a cheeseburger!

  8. Annette- Lol. Words are definitely subjective. :) You do an excellent job of making a difference in the lives of everyone who crosses your path. I've never met someone who so actively searches for little ways to reach out.

    Katy- I'm so inspired that each of us has a different passion. I can't imagine you ever going through life silent and apathetic. :)

    Jake- Oh, I've got your cheeseburger right here. Come and get it.

  9. That was a beautiful post, CJ. I sat in awe as I heard them recount Lopong's amazing story before he raced the other night. It is such an inspiration, especially when we start to give in and question whether we are truly called to our passion.

    My passion is loving people and somehow showing a glimpse of Christ's love for all of us (and His most amazing sacrifice)through what He does through me. That plays out in a variety of ways and takes me to unexpected places and conversations.

    Thanks for posting; now I will go wipe my eyes. :)


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