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Teen Perspective, a column on Muslim teen issues

October 2003

How to Change Society in One Day

by Shezena T. Mohammed

Every morning when I wake up for Fajr, I have remnant scenes, feelings and images of what I dreamt during the night. This morning when I woke up I remember this of my dreams: I was in a small gathering of different kinds of people with different backgrounds. They were all adults and all very educated and intellectual. We were quietly discussing and debating many different issues regarding religion, philosophy, and most important and relevantly, society. We mostly spoke about changing and contributing to society and what part we could play. We questions whether it was even possible for one person, from amongst ourselves perhaps, to change an entire society.

Of course, we remembered all the famous figures in history who changed society. Obviously it is possible for one person to change history, and that's why we know of such people It all must have started from one person. Anything that happened must have started from one person, even if that person is not the person we recognize today in our history books.

In the midst of our discussion about society, one prominent and intelligent looking man turned and looked directly at me, and as he did, so did everyone else, and he said to me, "And you girl, what are you going to do to change society today?" Everyone looked at me to see what I was going to say.

At that point I woke up and saw that it was time for Fajr. After I prayed I remembered the question the man had asked me. I began to consider, just for argument's sake, that it was possible for just one person to change society, even in this day and age, and even in one day. What could one person do to change society in one day, and that day being today?

We all know that Rome wasn't built in a day, but the idea of Rome could have been conceived in one day. Everything that we know of in history, the idea of it was born and thought up and just was there one minute and not the minute before. But the idea itself wouldn't change society. It had to be actually carried out. The idea wouldn't change the world, the actions would.

So that defined the question a little more. What actions could you do to change society today? After getting over that first impression of it again, I began to think that just because you change society doesn't mean that you will be recognized for doing it, and it doesn't mean that you will see the benefit of what you have done. You could do something to change a society today but not see the effects of it even after a lifetime. It's still worth it though, I think. I don't think you really need to see the effects of whatever you do to be satisfied and content with what you've done. Just knowing is enough.

So now I have gotten that out of the way, I need to do something and I don't need to necessarily see the benefit of what I've done. What could I possibly do to change society today? Nothing, right?

There are two kinds of people who I always thought change and affect society on a regular and daily basis. Those people are mothers and teachers. I am neither, and I don't have anything up my sleeve that's worthy of the history books, so how could I change society? There is nothing big enough that I could do to change society, and especially not in one day. In fact, there is nothing anyone could do that would be great enough to change all of society in one day. That was my thinking.

But then I realized that my logic was flawed. I was thinking too big. It doesn't have to be some big, huge change that will make everyone stop in the streets like in a scene from Superman and be in awe about. What if I just start small? Something small that can at least benefit society from the effects that it brings. To take on all of society is too big of a task to handle all at once, but if you break it up into smaller parts, it can ripple. You can throw a pebble into a pond and just intend to make the five inches around the pebble move but it's still going to send ripples across the whole pond. You don't have to throw a boulder in to make it reach the end. It might be easier just to focus on the five inches.

So by starting small, if you were to just wave at your neighbor the next time you drive by, that could be like tossing a pebble in and you just made one ripple. One is all it takes to make another one. It's a start at making connections with other people to build trust and unity within your community. That's something we could all use. And to go even farther, what if every time you drove by you did it, and then to the mailman and then what if one day you smiled at the bank teller or that annoying kid who always leaves his bike in the middle of the street or just anyone. That's a start, those are pebbles being thrown in. From the good things that you do now, the effects of it can be unimaginable later. It's the effects of what you do that you count on to make the difference. Little gestures of kindness turn into big ones and it's something that never fades. I still smile when I remember small gestures of kindness and consideration from years ago.

For example I always remember after my grandfather died, seeing me upset one of my cousins picked a flower and gave it to me. Such a small thing but it made a huge impact. One ripple that made another.

And then even more still, what if you just tried to be a good person and let your light shine wherever you went? There are some people who when you talk to them you just feel like they are a good person and just being around them makes you feel good. They have a sort of good scent following them. They are like light that brightens the room and lifts anyone's sprit around them. The air around them seems cleaner and maybe things aren't that bad if you have someone like that around every once in a while. If there were someone like that in one out of every one hundred people, I know the quality of life would be much better. Just the genuine goodness and sincerity in them can make all the difference in the world to someone, especially someone who really needs it. Those are the people who really change the society they live in, just by being a part of it. And to change the people's mood around you and lift them up, and then they go out into the world and pass on a little bit of that cheer and it goes on and on. From just that moment you spent touching someone else, you brought the world you live in up a notch. It'll just ripple and eventually it'll get back to you when you need it.

The tough part is achieving that kind of character. It takes a lot I'm sure. Not everyone is born already smiling. But we can start now and pass it on to someone else. That's the only way it'll get around, if you pass it on. That's really the only truly effective way, I think, to change society. It all starts in you and it all can be done in one day, today, and everyday. If you constantly throw pebbles in, there are always going to be ripples, and they'll always get back to you.

So that's what I think I'm going to do today to change society. I'm going to be nice and considerate, I'll listen to the people around me, and wave to my neighbors. I'll be a source of comfort and support. I'll give without taking. I'll encourage and be there for whoever needs it. I'll be a positive influence on people by the support I give and the things I do. I'm pretty sure I have some light in me somewhere and I'll let it shine though. I doubt I will ever be mentioned in any history book for what I do, but I hope the things I do will at least be mentioned in the angel's book on my right, because that's the only one that matters.

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