Be the difference you want to see in others

When bemoaning negative events in culture, someone commented that we can't change the culture.

That statement, which sounded futile and hopeless, was met with "Then what's the point?"

The wise man responded, "You can change a culture -- make a difference -- one person at a time."

Each and every one of us have a different circle of influence, a different realm in which we make a difference.

I'm reminded of the song from the 1950s, "Let There Be Peace on Earth" in which one line states "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Every change I want to see, must first begin with me. I should not complain about impatient, rude drivers or customers if I react with impatience and incivility when I'm forced to wait.

The more I've experienced, the more I've learned patience and grace. As I've aged, I've thought with chagrin about my former mental impatience with some of the vagaries associated with aging friends or relatives.

The message has been shared in almost every culture in a variety of ways.

"Don't just a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins," has been quoted often.

Jesus, in speaking to crowds in the Sermon on the Mount, told his hearers that when they judge, they are often ignorant of their own failures.

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). He continued advising that they take the "log" out of their own eye before trying to help take the "speck" out of their brother's eye.

Perspective certainly makes a difference, doesn't it. That tiny flaw, failure I excuse or attempt to hide in my own life may look gigantic in someone else's life.

If I think I clearly see a problem in my neighborhood, my community, my city, what am I doing about it? Do I complain and criticize? Do I take to social media and spew out diatribes against it?

All too often, complaints and comments on social media posts are based on faulty information. Very much as in the old children's game "gossip" or "telephone" in which a message is whispered in the ear of the person sitting next to you and then passed on down the line, the message is grossly distorted by the time it gets to the final person.

How can each of us be a contributing member of our community? First, by improving ourselves -- working on being more respectful, patient, kind, generous, involved. Then, as we get involved whether by volunteering in a committee or commission or helping at a local charity, seek to understand and contribute.

When we hear a complaint or report, do we check the veracity of that information? Or, do we pass it on without verifying?

We are blessed to live in an age with multiple options for getting information. We have a local newspaper, there are radio news programs, television programs and almost each of the entities about which we're concerned -- city and school groups -- have social media accounts.

Go to the source. When you hear a report about something about which you're concerned, first and foremost verify by going directly to the source for the facts. Then, if you have suggestions or concerns, share them with someone in a position of authority or influence with the source.

Be the difference you want to see in your community.

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She can be reached at [email protected].