THE BLOG
10/22/2015 02:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Save the World

By Elizabeth Lesser

2015-10-22-1445524718-8539526-E.Lesser.JPG After I saw the first two episodes of Oprah's new series, "Belief," I was stunned by the powerful, artistic ways in which they send a message of unity and hope to our hurting world. So often we blame religions for stirring conflict and violence around the globe, and yet spiritual traditions are also the source of peace and purpose, compassion and community, for millions of individuals and groups in every town and city and nation.

We've neglected to tell the real story of faith these days. It's a love story. It's a story the world needs to hear. And it's the story that the "Belief" series tells.

No matter what I do -- no matter what issues or organizations I get involved with or give money to -- I never feel I'm doing enough for the world. I don't know what it would take for me to feel contributive enough. If I gave away all my belongings, stopped driving a car and ate only wild fruit that had fallen on the ground, would I feel I was living lightly enough on the planet? If I marched in the streets every time something unjust happened in our country, would I be a sufficient part of the solution? If I gathered up all the abandoned children in my town or my state or the whole wide world and fed and educated and cared for them, would that be enough?

Something tells me that nothing would ever be enough. Therefore, I am trying to stop the internal voices that tell me I'm shirking my responsibility to save the world. I'm trying to let go of the whole idea that there is a world to be saved.

Instead, I've come to believe there is a world to be loved -- and this is the message at the core of all the world's faiths. This is the message that shines through each episode of the "Belief" series. Rather than saving the world, it's our job to love the world. But even that is too much to ask. It's our job to love the particular world we live in, to love what comes into our sphere, as opposed to searching far and wide for what needs to be saved. Some of us naturally live in a big world; we're drawn to move in wide circles and to choose work that tackles broad problems. That's wonderful. If that is what your soul calls you to do, I am grateful to you for answering the call and for bringing light and wisdom to the larger world.

But if that's not your calling, if you find yourself living and working in a small radius with the same family members and friends and community, please know that there is a world to be loved right where you are. There are lonely people to help, rifts with friends to heal, family members to forgive. There are places to protect and defend and cherish. There are local issues where your voice could be an agent of calm and sanity. Your world is no different, no less worthy, no less needy than any other world you can imagine.

Recently, I posted on Facebook a commitment I was making to share good news about the world as often as I share articles that report the darker side of humanity. And I started with sharing an article about the city of Los Angeles, and how it was conserving water. It was a big-picture, big-problem, big-solution news item. People commented and shared their own good-news articles. But there was one comment that went straight to my heart. It reminded me to love the world in which I live, and the people who live there with me. My Facebook friend wrote:

Here's some good news. I have a little shrine in my house designated to the memory of my late son, Ben. A couple of days ago, my young granddaughter -- Ben's little girl -- helped me prepare the shrine for this time of year. We brought in colorful leaves and acorns and pine needles. One of her delights was to sprinkle sparkly "snow" over the shrine. My cleaning people were here this morning. I just noticed that they carefully arranged the snow into a heart shape around the various beloved objects we had put out to honor Ben. World news? I actually think it has a way of becoming just that.

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