I hear friends complain about the world, yet often they are people who perpetuate the very thing they lament.

Sometimes we see what we believe. I am an optimist and a philanthrope. I genuinely like most of the people I meet. Because of that, I live in a breathtakingly benign world. I am treated exceptionally well wherever I go, and the exceptions stand out strongly, as they are so rare and unexpected. (Of course being tall, white, and male is all part of the privilege I live with too. I do hope some of the world I generate around me is because of my heart, as well.)

We often forget our power to shift the world. Part of this is putting on different, rosier, goggles, and part of this is being the change we want to see in the world, as Ghandi put it. Or as the Greek philosopher Plutarch said:

What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

Most recently, we’ve watched the gay rights movement fight for equality on the national stage. Yet it isn’t only national laws that create change, but also in the smaller increments of our individual lives.

I grew up with Mormons who idolized family values, yet excommunicated their gay children. This form of “morality” is replicated across the Christian world, with communities rejecting the very members who bridge and crossover community divisions, while they lament that things fall apart.

Contrast that with the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.