We live in a country with problems. School shootings, global warming, political polarization and human rights violations are only a handful of the issues that we face. The news is littered with stories of violence and tragedy every day. As they say, if it bleeds it leads. With all of this tragedy being shown to us 24 hours a day, it’s easy to start to see the world as a horrible place.
But I believe this world isn’t as horrible as it seems, and we must not forget all of the good we do as a society. I want to give a respite to the endless cycle of stories on what’s wrong with the world, and instead, acknowledge what we do to make it better.
In 2017 alone, the U.S. spent over $45 billion in foreign aid. Almost $10 billion was spent on improving healthcare in foreign countries for those in poverty, providing services such as vaccines and life-saving medical operations. An additional $8 billion went to helping with humanitarian problems, such as a lack of clean drinking water, food and shelter. Along with that, over $4.5 billion was spent to better the education and economic development of foreign countries so that the children there might have a better future.
In addition to the tax dollars we provide to make this assistance possible, many people also dedicate their time and labor to help foreign citizens lead better and happier lives. Nonprofit foundations provide safe living environments for many of those in poverty around the world, such as the 800,000 homes Habitat for Humanity has built. Others, such as Doctors Without Borders, help to ensure that in over 70 other countries, people who don’t have access to healthcare are able to get the treatments they need to survive.
Money speaks, and people in the U.S. donated over $400 billion to charity in 2017. Of that, $80 billion went to human services and societal charities to help those in need, $59 billion went to support education and $23 billion went to help those in poverty in foreign countries.
What makes me believe this world is great isn’t just the large single contributions; few have the ability to donate huge sums of money on their own. It’s the combination of all the little things each person does on a daily basis that creates a wave of generosity that makes a real impact. Most of us probably remember those 2000s commercials in which they give an example of a random act of kindness and say, “Pass it on.” It’s that mentality — one of selflessness and passing on kindness to random strangers — that makes a real impact on the world through each individual in a never-ending cycle.
Working as a cashier, I saw and dealt with a lot of bad situations and difficult people over the summer, but those aren’t the interactions that stuck with me. The memories that stand out most are random acts of kindness like people paying for random strangers’ groceries in line who came up short, buying homeless people lunch and donating hundreds of dollars to local food banks to help feed those who are in need.
On any given day, we see people holding doors open for other people, inviting those who are sitting alone to join them or picking up litter on the side of the road. While none of these are particularly large acts by themselves, each and every one makes a measurable difference that, when combined with others, makes a substantial difference in our world.
Changing the world is like voting — while each individual vote doesn’t seem like it makes an impact, if everyone votes, we get the real outcome we’re hoping for. If each person in the world donated one penny, we could raise over $76 million for charity. If each person in the U.S. volunteered an hour a week, we would have over 16 billion hours of volunteer labor a year. While we each may not be able to donate millions of dollars, we can all make a difference by just doing what we can and passing on kindness.
The reason I believe this world isn’t all that bad is that when it comes down to it, most people really do care and want to help. While the news usually doesn’t show this side of humanity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.