This Is How You Can Help Change the World

Imagine what it would be like if you really could help change the world. Didn’t even the thought of it make your blood surge a bit? Here is how you can:

We all want to positively affect our world, no?

Often in the idealism of youth, we truly believe we can change the world. And, we want to leave our marks to assure history doesn’t completely forget us. And then we get a bit older and realize we’re just dots in the grand scheme of human existence.

We’re literally stardust.

Somewhere along the way, however, comes the dawning that we still want to leave this world a better place—for our children and grandchildren, if nothing else.

And no matter which side of the political aisle you sit, the world could use bettering!

Imagine what it would be like if you really could help change the world. Didn’t even the thought of it make your blood surge a bit?

Imagine what it would be like if you really could help change the world.

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You know—right before all that doubt came tumbling in about how “I’m just one person.” “What can I possibly do to help anything right outside my door, much less, across this vast land?” “I have my hands full with work, kids,” etc., etc., etc.

I know—I feel the same way at times. Our lives can be full to overflowing with barely time to decompress after the day (although we have to have some diversion!). Especially during those times, it’s far easier to say: “Let somebody else fix the world.”

And for periods of time, that’s all perfectly fine.

Sooner or later, though, we come to the realization that guess what—it’s us. We’re the adults. Especially when we get to the age of parents passing on, that understanding becomes, well, a bit stark.

We all have to take care of ourselves first. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs holds true for a reason! Of course the lower rungs are about food, shelter, safety, etc.

But funny thing—as you ascend the ladder, concern for your fellow man is part of the climb.

Maslow’s list of characteristics of self-actualizers has as #9:

Concerned for the welfare of humanity

So, all right, already! Let’s get this show on the road! What can I do? It’s easier than you think:

1. Stay informed about the world.

Yep, it’s tough with the insanity of all we have to do to stay informed via real news sources (i.e., not from social media!). I understand. Truly I do. But without getting educated on what’s really happening, it makes you so much easier to be led.

And you don’t want to be led, do you? Don’t you want to lead?

So, how to do this in the course of your insane day?

Begin a simple habit. One that doesn’t take long. Commit to 10 minutes a day of reading a reputable news source (the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, etc.). During this 10 minutes, read only from a source that actually vets information, checks sources, and curates information.

Who doesn’t have 10 minutes? Maybe steal it from all that Facebook time J

I can promise—this will change your life. And in so doing, you can help change the world.

As Thomas Jefferson said:

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

2. Vote.

Yeah, yeah, I know—the election’s over. Thank God! But voting actually occurs every 2 years, and hardly anyone does it.

“But my vote doesn’t matter!” is a common refrain.

Well, it doesn’t matter if you don’t cast it.

Even in highly contested presidential elections, so many Americans don’t exercise this right, believing that their votes just don’t count.

In 2012, Phillip Phillips won the 11th season of American Idol. More people voted for him than for president that year. 132 million people voted in American Idol. 122 million in the Presidential election.

Okay, so this is somewhat deceptive. Statistics often are. At least with me, I’ll tell you when I’m skewing them! Granted, you can vote for Idol even if you’re under 18. And, you can vote multiple times (without being accused of voter fraud).

Still, that’s a pretty scary indictment of the state of our world.

In the recent election, almost half of eligible voters didn’t vote. The best count is 57.9 percent of eligible voters voted in 2016

In the 2014 midterms, just 36.4 percent of eligible voters turned out. And the thing is, those elections affect your life much more so than the presidential ones . . .

So what would happen if the rest of those folks voted?

It would change our world.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

3. Broaden your horizons with Literary Fiction

I know—you don’t have time to read fiction, right? Or if you do, it’s for mindless diversion. I get that—truly I do. And I’m just proud as hell that you’re reading any fiction. The actual number of folks who read declines every year.

But one thing I know for true—the arts provide our very best method for not just learning about other cultures, about other people’s lives and values, but also in understanding them. And if you understand someone different from you, you are much less likely to see them as “other,” and far more likely to try and find common ground.

We even have studies that prove reading fiction enhances empathy and improves human connection, as well as stimulating the brain and improving language skills and vocabulary.

The surest way to lasting peace is through culture.

And a new study showed that people who read live longer than those who don’t!

And I know, I know—often Literary works are obtuse and difficult to wade through. But reading levels become more sophisticated when challenged. And the riches buried therein are far more valuable than the work involved to get there.

Challenge yourself to read 1, just 1 Literary novel a year.

a new study showed that people who read live longer than those who don’t!


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It can even be the same one! A literary agent/friend of mine reads The Mayor of Casterbridge every New Year’s Day. I always chuckle at what this says about him. But what can I say? I read A River Runs Through It at least once a year.

But reading just 1 Literary novel each year will change your perspective, even if the tiniest bit. Which will change your world.

And therefore, change our world.

(Besides, the one you choose may be mine! Apologies for the little break for shameless self-promotion)

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” – William Styron

4. Use your gifts.

We all have them, no? You came here with inherent gifts. You honed them. You’re good at various things at this point, some of which you don’t pursue.

Why not? Is it that little voice again telling you you’re not good enough? You’re not smart, talented, courageous, persistent, whatever, enough to do anything with those gifts?

Hogwash. Slap that little demon voice off your shoulder and reconsider the gift you buried, probably along with a broken dream.

Commit to your gift. Commit to persisting, using that gift in the future. As Calvin Coolidge said:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Now, more than ever before in the history of our planet, the world needs your gifts.

Bring them on. This will change your world.

And will help change ours.

5. Teach Yourself Peace

People often laugh at this, no? “How,” they say, “will becoming more peaceful myself help this world one iota?”

Anger and fear go hand in hand. And we sure saw where that took us this political season! The body is wired to defend itself—that old fight-or-flight mechanism, courtesy of the limbic system.

But if you can quiet that monkey mind, many studies have shown that you also:

  • Improve memory
  • Stimulate brain growth
  • Relieve stress
  • Combat insomnia
  • Heighten awareness of other senses.

All of which makes you a better, more thoroughly realized you. Which changes your world. And changes ours.

As Alice Walker said:

“Teach yourself peace. Pass it on.”

6. Every month, do 1 thing—just 1 thing—to bolster the causes that reflect your values.

Just 1 thing.

We often think of that in terms of volunteering—which is great!

Or giving money—also helpful!

But these can be little things as well. For example, after the winning candidate in this election blasted The New York Times (venerated, vetted, curated, cross-checked traditional newspaper), I went and subscribed.

Yep, a little thing, but made me feel better. Because I was supporting something I believed in.

So imagine, if you will, if every citizen in these United States just did these few things—or others like them. What sort of world would we live in? Wouldn’t it be better, richer, stronger?

Sunday night, Cris Collinsworth said something that truly snagged my attention. (I won’t bore you non-football folks with the details!) He was describing how a particular player when hit, or faced with a play that would lose yards, would always “react up.”

Now, that tweaked me. Because that’s the key to life, isn’t it? When we’re hit, knocked down, derailed in some fashion, we have two choices: We can complain about our circumstances and blame another (that danged outside linebacker!). Or, we can immediately take the next step toward the goal line.

We can React Up.

I do believe that will be my mantra for 2017.

Ah, yes, we’re just stardust. But then, stardust contains all the components of matter. It’s our choice what we will build with it.

How do you hope to change the world?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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58 comments
Tamuria says December 14, 2016

React up – I love that. These are wonderful points on how we can help to change the world, Susan. It strikes me that most of them relate to self-improvement and I truly believe that any great change has to start from within. We may be just stardust, but that is pretty magical stuff. How do I hope to change the world? By continuing to be a positive force in the lives of my children and their children, helping to nurture a love and respect for the environment within them and anyone else I can, and to teach people to find happiness, peace and solutions through creativity.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    Isn’t ‘react up’ just marvelous, Tamuria! Just says it for me. And yes–all great change starts from within. Then, we take it local and global 🙂 You are a wonderful example of that!

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Neely Moldovan says December 14, 2016

Voting and staying informed are so important. It drives me crazy when people don’t stay informed.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    Doesn’t it, Neely. How different our world would be if everybody did!

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Beverley Golden says December 14, 2016

Thank you for being someone who also is using your voice to rally others to use theirs, Susan! I have been so involved in all the causes that are dear to my heart, environmental rights, human rights and animal rights, in some simple ways, by signing and sharing petitions and donating money. I know after the election a lot of people wrote letters of thanks to Hillary and also donated to causes that will be most impacted by the new administration.

It appears to me that the future of the planet is at stake if more of us don’t take actions to support the very real climate change issues we are facing now. It’s amazing how many people still feel they are only one voice and can’t possibly make a difference. Imagine if all those individual voices banded together to show how powerful we are when we stand together for a common cause? Love that you subscribed to the New York Times and thanks for reminding people to follow credible news sources…not the stuff they see on social media. There is a great article in last weekend’s Teen Vogue you might really resonate with. A very well-documented piece called “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America”.

I appreciate how you are so committed to awakening and educating people to take action!

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    I so respect your continued work for those causes, Beverley–you’re a consistent voice, and that’s SO needed now. And yes–just imagine, just truly imagine, if everyone got involved, even in small ways. And now, with our designated EPA chair (whom, by the way, sued the agency), what could happen environmentally is truly scary. I’ve been an environmental activist since the early ’80s–before it was cool. And continued to be. And will continue on as well. You know, the planet will survive. But if we stay on this track, people won’t . . .
    Excited to go read that article. Thank you!

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Hey Sharonoox says December 14, 2016

Great post! I agree with you on teaching oneself about peace. IMO, we all have to take part on changing the world, big or small. After all there is only one world.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    Absolutely–we have one world here! Teaching ourselves peace is paramount to facilitating peace in the world.

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Adriana Martin says December 14, 2016

Clever article to open your mind to new possibilities and to learn new things. Thanks for sharing.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    Opening our minds is truly everything, isn’t it, Adriana. Perhaps the world is not exactly as we see it, and being open to other viewpoints opens our world.

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valmg @ Mom Knows It All says December 15, 2016

I have tried to explain to my oldest many times that one person speaking up can make a differene. And I believe everyone should be able to enjoy reading.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    What a wonderful mom thing to do! Your children are lucky to have you. Thank you!

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Reba Linker says December 15, 2016

I love #5: “Teach Yourself Peace” It is on us. I am so glad to know you, and to be shoulder to shoulder with you and other fine men and women that are doing what we can, in our own small quiet ways, and sometimes even in our own not-so-small and not-so-quiet ways! Let’s use the power we’ve been give, to find inner peace, and to speak and to act!

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    It is up to us, isn’t it, Reba. I so love the work you’re doing as well. And what a great rallying call!

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Michael LaRocca says December 15, 2016

In every life there comes a moment when we’re acutely aware of our own mortality. For me, it was when I realized that I’m older than Brian Bosworth.

However, I’ll leave the place better than I found it. Why not?

Oh, and perhaps more Americans would vote if the candidates for president burst into song.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    LOL, Michael! So sad you’re older than Brian Bosworth. Very cute 🙂
    Sigh on the singing. Or if all candidates these days had their own reality TV shows . . .

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Lori English says December 15, 2016

Susan,

A great article that is so inspiring to me on how to change the world . I reflect back on my graduate school and how I always am passionate about the subject matter that I study and also do research on the side. As I grew older my priorities have shifted still pasionate about making our systems work for the underprivileged and for the people that need it the most. I am Grateful for what I have, but would like to do a little more. Thanks Great article.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    OH, Lori, I love that you’re working for the people most in need! Now that is a worthy goal 🙂

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Meghan says December 15, 2016

I try to think of changing the world by contributing something on a small scale. Perhaps it’s by paying it forward. Sometimes it is donations. I wish I had a louder voice, but with it would come a ton of controversy and angst! I like your point about peace. If I spend too much time on social media or in the news, I am not peaceful. And I’m a lot happier at peace than I am when I’m angry! So, I’ve reduced my time on social media and away from the news. Staying informed is important, of course, so I check in with the world a couple times a week. 🙂

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    Now, see, those are all great things to do, Meghan! No wonder you’re always so even keel 🙂

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Vatsala Shukla says December 15, 2016

I’m smiling as I write Susan, because as a child I couldn’t wait to grow up and change the world. 🙂 I’d even recruited my parents for this purpose because I thought they were intelligent adults!

Of course Life happens and other concerns take priority but I never lost sight of the vision and after a very rewarding corporate career decided it was time to follow my vision. I doubt I’ll achieve what I wanted in this lifetime but if I’ve made a difference in even 1 person’s life, then its all worth it.

I read 2 newspapers daily to make sure I get the full view and watch both the national and international news channels to stay up to date with what’s going on in the world.

More importantly, I have my causes that I work for and contribute as part of my spiritual practice. Ultimately, it’s what we do at the grass root level that takes humanity forward. Loved your post.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    I love all of that, Vatsala! I’m chucking at the vision of you recruiting your parents (them being intelligent adults!). What a wonderful, precocious child you were!
    And look how that’s served you into adulthood–with you serving causes, and our world. Yes, life really is local, no?

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Robin says December 15, 2016

Honestly, as I read your points, all that comes to my mind is my Christian walk. There are so many parallels – Use your gifts, broaden horizons, peace, do one thing, etc. Whatever ones’ views on religion, walking in faith does help the world. So, I will do my part, vote, stay informed, and reach out to others in need.

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    Susan Malone says December 15, 2016

    I so agree, Robin. Without my spiritual walk, I’d be lost. You go!

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says December 15, 2016

Hi Susan! I love that… “React up.” It is true that we can always choose to take the road toward greater wellbeing or the road to destruction. I like to remember the little story that says, “we have a bucket of water on one shoulder and a bucket of fuel on the other. When something happens we either throw one or the other.” Obviously one causes fire and explosions and the other puts out the fire and helps things to grow. And I think all your other suggestions are spot on too. I can’t help but believe that regardless of appearances…things are always working out for us. ” ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says December 16, 2016

    Isn’t “React Up” just wonderful, Kathy. I just love Cris Collinsworth.
    And I love the bucket analogy! Now THAT will stick in my mind. And I keep reminding myself too that things are always working out . . .

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Mary says December 16, 2016

I really need to work on my own peace. It’s probably the hardest thing on this list for me. That and knowing my gifts.

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Personal peace is an ongoing challenge, isn’t it, Mary. But ah, find your gifts and use them!

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Katarina Andersson says December 16, 2016

Good article…and great tips of steps to if not affect at least stay informed and affect it a bit each in our own way.

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Katarina Andersson says December 16, 2016

Sorry, forgot the word ‘world’ in my comment above… 🙂

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Laughing–my brain read the sentence with ‘world’ already in it!

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Jennifer Quisenberry says December 16, 2016

This may be a bit stream of consciousness, but it brought up a few things for me. 1) Maslow #9– I wonder if this explains how so many in dire straights fall for influences that aren’t good for them? Politically, socially, etc? They are so caught up in what happen TO them that they can’t see beyond what’s happening to others. 2) I read constantly. I was a lit student in grad school, so I still have the habit of reading several books a year. I think I average about a book or two a week. It really does open up your mind. I particularly enjoy historical fiction. I learn so much about other cultures just by reading about these crazy love stories and adventures set amongst real events and characters.

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Very interesting thought, Jennifer! And quite possible, don’t you think? If you’re grasping on the lowest ladder in the rung, you’ll bit at most anything.
    I love, love, love that you read so much! Warms my heart 🙂

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Joan M Harrington says December 17, 2016

Yes I truly believe that we can change the world with at least one of these ideas you have listed, Susan 🙂 Using our gifts is one that stuck out for me because it is one that is so easy for us to do 🙂 Utilizing what we know to help others is the best thing we can do to be that change we want to see in this big, beautiful world! Just take one act! Love your NEW mantra too!

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Absolutely, Joan! Our gifts are here for a reason–to help us, and by proxy, the world we live in. And isn’t that mantra great!

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Alene A Geed says December 17, 2016

you have some wonderful suggestions here. Thanks. It has been so long since I read or knew anything about Maslow’s Hierarchy. Thanks for pointing to #9 (concern for others). My favorites are to stay informed and to broaden our horizons, especially with literature.

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Isn’t literature the most wonderful thing, Alene. If I could just get the world to read . . . Doing my part!

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CourtneyLynne says December 17, 2016

Great advice here!!! It’s crazy how people love to
Complain about things yet they don’t do anything to change things

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Isn’t that just the oddest thing, Courtney! But we know better 🙂

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Elizabeth O says December 18, 2016

We can change the world by making a difference in someone’s life. There are families in need of some help and they would appreciate any gifts we share. Happy Holidays!

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    So very true, Elizabeth. Change begins where we live. Happy Holidays to you as well!

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Lisa Swanson says December 18, 2016

I think this election woke up a lot of people. My daughter for one, who was never involved in politics and now following the news and reading books by Bernie Sanders, and others. This is a critical time for our country and how more people get involved.

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    I agree, Lisa. And just love that about your daughter! Won’t be long and we’ll be handing the baton to that generation 🙂

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Jonita D'souza says December 19, 2016

‘We’re literally stardust’ – so true! We often forget. Thank you for reminding us with these tips so that we can react up and not pull each other down.

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    Susan Malone says December 19, 2016

    Yes, that’s us, Jonita–stardust! And isn’t ‘React up’ just marvelous?

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Sonya Kolodziejska says December 19, 2016

‘But if you can quiet that monkey mind, many studies have shown that you also’ then all those points you made… that’s me right there!
A great read, thanks for sharing.

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Renee groskreutz says December 19, 2016

REACT UP! I love this so much. This year, I plan to slow down more and focus on learning more about what matters, not just the headlines in the news. One of my goals is to pick a topic and do a deep dive on learning what is really happening.

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Joyce Hansen says December 19, 2016

Such a wonderful post, Susan. Yes, we can all do these things. It takes so little time when compared to all the time we waste on things that do not contribute to bettering our own life and those who will come after us. The voting statistic was a surprise given how much rhetoric was flying in this campaign. People in other parts of the World envy our freedom, and yet we can let it so easily slip away by not voting.

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    Susan Malone says December 20, 2016

    It’s just amazing, isn’t it, Joyce. What would our country be like if the other half of it voted?

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Mindy Iannelli says December 20, 2016

I love the tip of 10 minutes a day reading some REAL news! I am going to start doing that. And one of the things I always loved most about reading fiction is how much I learn when I do. Things that have stayed with me long after I’ve read the book – things I never would have sought out on my own to learn about, I’m now glad I did!

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    Susan Malone says December 20, 2016

    Isn’t that just Truth with a capital T, Mindy–oh, what we learn from fiction! And enjoy ourselves doing it!
    And yep, just 10 minutes a day of real news. If everyone did that, it would truly change the world . . .

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Sheryl says December 20, 2016

Be the change, it all starts with one!

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Lorii Abela says December 20, 2016

I love your topic this week. Helping to change by being the change is a great possibility. You are right, it can be done one step at a time. It also reminds us that we are all part of a whole so whatever one does affects others.

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    Susan Malone says December 21, 2016

    All so true, Lorii! One step at a time produces lasting change. And we are all connected . . .

    Reply
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