My weekly project last week was tackling one of the shelves in my office closet – the one that holds, among other things, notebooks, binders, and workbooks from some of the many classes I’ve taken over the years. Most of them have to do with writing or professional speaking, and I haven’t really looked at them in a long time.

In a way, going through them was like looking at old scrapbooks or photo albums. In another way, it was a bit like looking in a crystal ball, but in reverse, because – as I skimmed through them while deciding what to keep, what to toss, and what to pass on to others who might find them useful – I found some buried treasure in the form of goals, dreams, and plans I made years ago. The treasure comes in being able to see how successful – or not – I was in each of them, and to be able to look back and analyze the journey, as well as the events and accomplishments that came in between then and now.

Especially interesting was a class assignment I found in which we were to complete a series of sentences that reflected hopes and dreams for the future – not for ourselves, but for the world. In hindsight, I can see that the exercise was really about our values.

The first sentence to complete was: Imagine a world where…

My response then was “a world where people treated others with courtesy and respect, even if they didn’t know them, like them, or agree with them.”

The next sentence beginning was: Instead of this perfect world, we have a world where…

My response to that one was “we have a world where many people ignore, belittle, and mistreat others, especially those who are different from themselves or with whom they disagree.”

And next: The obstacles to creating my perfect world are…

My response was “the desire to be right, a fear of seeming weak, and the belief that we build ourselves up when we put others down. Also, the belief that we are too busy to get to know others, that we don’t have the time to do so even if we wanted to, and that we don’t have any real need or reason to.”

This exercise came from a class or workshop I took in 2007, but I’d say that the statements – and my responses – reflect issues in the world today even more so than they did back then.

One of my favorite sayings is a quote from Gandhi that says, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and that tells me now that I’m not meant to merely observe the situation, but to work at fixing it. The rest of the sentences in that homework assignment, in fact, had to do with what steps would need to be taken – by people in general and by us in particular – to create the perfect world we envisioned in the first sentence. If that’s the case, I’ve got a lot more – and more important – work to do than cleaning out the shelves in my closet.

I’d better get started.

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March 6, 2020
©Betty Liedtke, 2020