In today’s world, it’s both easier and more difficult to make a difference than ever before. Fundraising challenges go viral, Kickstarter campaigns raise millions, online promotion makes it possible for new creative projects to make it into the right hands at the right time— even when those hands are halfway across the world.
And yet? Our social media backdrop, with its incessant interruptions, instant feedback and sensory overload, also creates a lot of noise. And a lot of questions: Can a life’s meaning really be measured in followers and likes and re-tweets? Is our worth determined by how many people we can find to validate our work? Or donate to our cause? Or join our crusade?
I think it’s usually true that real transformation looks far less like like a victory lap than a slow and steady march. That most often, making a lasting difference requires patience. And steadfastness. And the desire, not to change the world in a flash, but to simply make tomorrow better than today.
As George Eliot wrote in her novel Middlemarch: “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who live faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
So for those of you blazing this long and lonely trail, searching for a way to make your own significant contribution— take heart. A meaningful life exists right where you are. You don’t need anything other than what you already have. And “the real voyage of discovery,” as French novelist Marcel Proust writes, “consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.“