Tend Your Own Garden
Go big or go home? Helping those in your inner circle can go a long way in making a bigger impact
By Robyn Haarsma, Representative
It’s no secret that we are living in a time where our world seems uncertain and chaotic. From government leadership, to the state of the earth’s ecosystem, to individual health, there are many differing and opposing perspectives on what the problems are—and what the solutions might be.
I know I find it overwhelming.
As someone who wants to leave this world a better place than what it was when I came into it, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. A concept that I have found helpful is the idea of tending your own garden.
In exploring the idea of how to maximize the amount of goodness within the world, the philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, “The great majority of good actions are intended not for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good of the world is made up.
I think John is saying that the best way to make the world a better place is to focus on bettering the lives of the people around you. While there are many good things that we can, and probably should, do to make a difference when facing big-picture problems, the reality is that you can have a greater impact on influencing and improving the lives of your family, friends, roommates, neighbours, and coworkers.
As we face overwhelming challenges on our earth and with the humans that live in it, those right in front of us are often the ones who we struggle to be patient with and gracious and kind to. (Especially these days when you almost certainly will have a strong difference in perspective than these folks!)
So, what might it look like to tend your own garden?
Be extra considerate and patient with your spouse or roommate—even when frustrated that they have left their dirty dishes in the sink.
Spend quality time listening to and encouraging your friend who is working through a messy divorce.
Cook a bunch of frozen dinners for your neighbour with a newborn child.
Take your niece to a comic convention to meet her hero, even though you have no idea what she’s talking about most of the time.
Bring your colleague back a warm drink when your go for coffee run on your break.
These seem like small things. But over time you will see these small seeds grow into little plants, and over the years and decades you will surely see a full-grown garden. If everyone does what they can to provide some light and love in the people around them, then we will see more beautiful and flourishing gardens around our world. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?