A Message of Hope: How Our Small Actions Can Change the World

Pope Francis greets a resident as he arrives to give an Easter blessing to a home in a public housing complex in Ostia, a Rome suburb. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Sometimes, I wonder what an outsider would think of our world. How can a planet, so small within the vast universe, be so terribly at war with itself?

Just a quick glance at the news paints a gloomy picture. Every day there’s another story of anguish: suicide bombings, outbreaks of disease, wars in Syria and Yemen, and thousands of refugees crossing borders in search of safety for their families.

When I pray for the world, I sometimes find myself lost for words and feel discouraged when I think of where we’re headed. Yet, in his recent TED Talk, Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone, Pope Francis views the future more positively. He outlines where he believes we’re going wrong and offers a message of hope for everyone who genuinely cares about the future.

Pope Francis believes that our problems stem from the fact that we’ve become separated from each other, mistrustful of those who are different from us, uncaring and contemptuous of those we view as beneath us, and too focused on our individual lives.

In his TED Talk, the pope summarizes his view that we’ve developed a culture of waste, not only of the world’s resources, but more importantly, of people too.

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“It would be good if the growth of technology and science could be matched by a growth in more equality and social inclusion,” Pope Francis says. “How wonderful would it be if ‘solidarity,’ this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic, and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries?”

Sometimes it’s hard to feel a connection with those who are different from us, those who have different beliefs or hold opposing political views. Fear of the unknown can make us focus on our differences rather than what we have in common. Living in a large multicultural city has helped me to get to know a wide variety of people from a host of cultures and backgrounds, and this has helped me to look for what brings us closer together, rather than what divides us.

When we stand in solidarity with others, we have the power to change the future. When we stand side-by-side, we remember that everyone else is also a living, breathing, feeling person.

Pope Francis offers a solution to our selfish and wasteful ways: “To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.”

In today’s language, the word hope implies wishful thinking rather than firm conviction. But the hope we read about in Scripture is totally different. Bible.org defines biblical hope as a “strong and confident expectation,” giving us a firm foundation for believing in the future.  

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“Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing,” Pope Francis says. He goes on explain that hope is a virtue of the heart that doesn’t focus on the past and isn’t simply about getting by in the present. The pope views the future with optimism. Sometimes it’s easy to slip into the habit of just getting through each day without living life to the full. I’ve begun to take a few moments each morning to think about how to make the most of the day ahead. It makes a huge difference to my attitude when I view each day as a gift from God – an opportunity to show God’s love to others.

Pope Francis also calls for a “revolution of tenderness,” and corrects the idea that sometimes tenderness is considered to be a weakness, saying that showing true tenderness in the face of adversity, is an act of strength. “Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude.”

Since first listening to Pope Francis’ TED Talk, I’ve tried to think more about my part in the world. I can’t change great world events like a war, a terrorist incident, or a famine. But there are small steps I can take to stand in solidarity with those who are different from me. I can buy a snack for a homeless person and spend a few moments speaking with them, instead of rushing by and averting my eyes. I can raise money to help refugees, or volunteer to help a struggling kid learning to read.  

Thinking of small daily actions I can take has made me realize that I do have the power to change one person’s life for the better. And when many people each do their small part, that adds up to a great change — perhaps even a movement.

So, let’s not be discouraged by what we see around us. Let’s all do our small part in bringing God’s hope to a suffering world.