How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
We live in an imperfect world. That’s not really debatable. We can argue over the whys and wherefores another time, but we all look around and know that many things are just not right.
It stands to reason, then, that change is not only necessary but inevitable; humans don’t always make the best decisions, but there’s always someone who burns with justice, and who will stand up and tackle serious and – if we’re honest – intimidating issues.
I don’t know about you, but for me great people like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr spring to mind when the topic of changing the world crops up. What I love about this Anne Frank quote is that she not only assumes that everyone wants to change the world, but that everyone can.
I’m going to go ahead and be honest here: I’m bad at public speaking. Big groups of people make me nervous. I’m not great at arguing or debating, I have a quiet voice, and I can barely spell ‘committal’, let alone put it into action. I’m a reader. I like writing, and watching movies, and chats over hot chocolate. I’m not exactly cut out to be a ‘world-changer’.
Cue some wise words from Persian poet Rumi:
Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows the flowers, and not the thunder.
Words are POWERFUL. Non-fiction books have played a huge part in sharing knowledge and combating ignorance.
My real passion, though, lies in fiction, and I’m a firm believer that novels can have just as much impact on society as purely informative books.
I could list so many books that are comments on society: ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens, and ‘Trash’ by Andy Mulligan to name but a few, and don’t get me started on the Dystopians! Literature is practically defined by its power to challenge the way we think and view things.
It’s not just blatant social comments that can be challenging; books like ‘I am the Messenger’ by Markus Zusak and ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth offer ethical messages that provoke readers to double check what they stand for and strive for in the realms of personality traits and how they relate to other people.
Writers like V.E. Schwab (Vicious) and Ted Dekker (Showdown, Burn) force us to look carefully at our stances on right and wrong, and inspire us to keep fighting.
All of this is incredibly inspiring (and, I would argue, essential), but where do books like ‘The Rosie Project’ (Graeme Simsion) fit in? How does a sweet, humourous and fun piece of literature in any way contribute to society?
Did you know happiness is really important? “A joyful heart is good medicine”, as Proverbs 17:22 will tell you. As a writer, and in ‘real life’ as well, I can tell you that there is nothing I find more up-lifting than to make someone else smile, especially if they’re going through a hard time. This summer I’m going to be heading to South Africa, where I’ll be partaking in charity work among people affected by AIDs, and I’m being completely honest when I say that if I can make one orphaned kid smile, the entire trip will be worth it.
As a famous (fictional) author once said:
Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
(That was John Green as Peter van Houten, by the way)
So no, I don’t think a reader/writer like me is ever going to impact every single individual on this planet, but I don’t think that was ever expected. I genuinely believe that giving a pep talk, buying someone hard on cash coffee, and even just being with someone who’s struggling changes their worlds, and the individuals matter so much.
Part of being human means we are part of what is – for lack of better words – a team. Our stories interlock and twist and you don’t know how that fiver you put in the charity jar could make a difference for someone. You don’t know how that sentence you wrote, or that book you recommended could impact someone’s perspective of life.
After all, the definition of change is this: “to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.” Personally, I endeavour to be one of those people who don’t leave injustices alone. Yeah, that homeless guy deserves a sandwich today. Yes, that girl who sits alone should be offered company. Yes, I should treasure the people in my life because we’re all temporary and fleeting and brimming with the potential to be meaningful and live meaningfully, and I don’t want to just grow that in myself but in others.
I want to be part of a sharing world; a world that is communicative and connected, and I’d say literature is a fantastic place to start.
So thank you Anne Frank and Rumi: I’m going to add my raindrops to the river, and I’m going to start now. Whose little infinity can you impact today?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!