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Photo Credit — Robert W. Dean @ Robertwdean.com

In a world that has so many problems, where do we start?

Have you ever started cleaning the fridge and just as you finish you suddenly notice the stove is also dirty, so you begin cleaning the stove, and then you look up to see the gathering dust on the cabinets and wait the blinds are dirty too, and so is the trash can. Suddenly you have this acute awareness to all of the cleaning that needs your attention. You roll up your sleeves and decide you are going to war against this filth, so go to the hallway closet to fetch your weapons… the broom and mop, but when you open the door, your eyes are pulled to the cumulation of junk inside. Suddenly you begin to feel overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking about all the cleaning you need to do. So you shut the closet door, and you quickly retreat to the couch and turn on some tv in hopes that it will make you forget about the mess…

The world can feel the same way.

I’m driving in the car, consumed with my personal priorities and issues, my mind is yapping away about everything from bills to ideas to unintelligible self-talk. A homeless guy is standing on the corner with a sign that says will work for food. He’s around my age. I think about it for a second, but truthfully it makes me sad, so I try and shift my attention to something else, but that acute awareness has begun to creep in. I make it about a quarter mile down the road, and I see an elderly man sitting at a bus stop. He looks tired and sad. Maybe he is just old. My mind goes back to the list of groceries I have to get at the store. I come pulling to a stop at the red light. Music plays in the car next to me. I glance over and see a young girl smoking…as my eyes move past her and to the backseat I see a young baby sleeping in her car seat, surrounded by smoke. The light turns green, and she quickly speeds away. As I slowly pull away from the light it all starts to sinks in… This world is messed up.

It makes me want to start cleaning it up, but where should I start?
World hunger? Chemical pollution? Corrupt politics? Homelessness? Big pharma? Cancer? Social injustice? War? Animal cruelty? Sex Slavery? Suddenly you begin to feel overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking about all the cleaning you need to do. So you shut the closet door, and you quickly retreat to the couch and turn on some tv in hopes that it will make you forget about the mess… but, maybe out of sight out of mind only lasts so long.

In a world that has so many problems, where do we start? Should one live his life without acknowledging these more significant issues or should he devote his life to fighting these problems? These are tough questions that I ask of myself, and honestly, it is a bit depressing and daunting when I start to think about it all.

Suddenly my problems, my art, my ideas, my photography, films, everything seem so unimportant when I take into consideration all of the big issues that are looming out there.

After spending some time thinking about this, the only answer I’ve come up with is this.

Start with yourself and start small.

We’re the ones that created these problems; however, most of these issues are bigger than what one person can solve. But still, it starts with you. Ask yourself, how much different would this world be if we were all worked to be a little better human beings? Better may be a relative term, but there are general principals here like Love, joy, kindness, compassion.

Stop being self-obsessed and self-consumed. We get it. You look beautiful on Instagram, and everyone loves you. We are all guilty of this, but please turn off the Kardashians and get real with yourself — — What is your relationship like with yourself? If you were dating you how would you feel about your partner? Would you like him? Would you trust him? Would you want to spend time with him? You will spend more time with yourself than anybody, so this seems like the best place to start. Ask yourself what is driving me today, is it love or is it fear? Nobody is going to save you, and they shouldn’t have to. That might sound harsh, but it’s true, and I only know this because I’ve lived it. Yes, love can change you, and it can turn your life around, but ultimately your wellbeing is your choice. You have to let go of the need for some kind of external validation to make your life okay. Make yourself right first. Do the work. You will never be perfect, but neither will anybody else. What matters is that you make an effort to grow and contribute beyond yourself.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for all the right “things” to make me happy, and they never did. And if they did make me happy, it was only temporary because the source of my longing was deeper than this and this led me to unconsciously self-sabotage those things. I won’t cry over spilled milk though, because I can now reflect and be grateful rather than shameful for not recognizing these things until it was too late because the truth is, this is exactly the way it was meant to unfold. They were lessons to me, and I am forever grateful for all of those experiences. Even the painful ones. No job, no partner, no car, no clothes, no amount of money or success is going to give you lasting fulfillment.

You don’t need anything but a little compassion towards your fellow human and a smile to feel better about your life. Get right with yourself first and let the job and the money and the partner and the beach body all be a complement to your life as well as others. Let them be a means to contribute but not a means in themselves.

My theory is that if you can fill yourself up, then it can spill out into the other areas of your life. If you think of it as a fountain, it would start at the top and flow downwards like this.

The kindness you give a stranger has the potential to ripple outwards for eternity.

I have no idea how we are going to solve these daunting problems that face humanity. Maybe they weren’t meant to be solved but instead intended to create a unity between us through a common cause. Either way, I do believe that It starts with me and a small act of kindness can go a long way.

I challenge myself as well as all of you to take this first small step into making this earth a better place. Not just for you, but for the stranger, the folks across the globe and for the kids that are yet to be born.

Robert W. Dean

Written by

A storyteller with the belief that we were only created for one purpose… to shine. Just as God had always intended.

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