As human beings, we have an underlying need for belonging and connection. All of us are by default programmed to be connected to our own interests. For many that circle broadens to their friends and family and for a few that broadens to their immediate community. Fewer still feel connected to their country and only some of us will feel connected to the world.
For years I’ve wondered why so few of us feel connected to our communities and the wider world. In other words, why is “our circle of connectedness” so small? Why do some of us take ownership of the state of the world and others don’t?
If we analyze the basic feeling of connection we’ll find that it comes with some packaged feelings of care, compassion and a degree of selflessness. When we feel connected to somebody, we care about their well-being. We’re happy when they’re happy and we help them, even at times when it’s not convenient to us. In fact, we feel empowered to take preventive action for their well-being even if they themselves don’t recognize it.
Feeling connected to the world seems to be the result of a process of genetic natural selection: a few of us with this sense of connection see our communities and the world through growth and tough times. As a subset, we’re passionate about the well-being of the community at large and often look at after it ahead of our own wants.
Some aptitude tests would categorize us as cause-driven. This attitude influences our life decisions. It drives us to pursue social enterprise as our preferred business path, to work in government and the public sector. It affects our day-to-day life too: we pick up waste from the street, help people and save water.
Using myself as an example, I have a constant feeling of duty towards our planet. This feeling has empowered me since childhood and today it has taken on a shape, structure and concrete purpose. It has inspired me to run my organization, HealthSetGo, which is making 1 million children in India healthier.
For me, it’s just the start, but let me be honest: I struggle to find other people who are as driven and passionate as I am towards the world, let alone their own communities. Why is this?
As a society, we’ve demarcated professions that are considered to be public or community service: working within government, becoming a political figure, running an NGO or social enterprise, or working with organizations like the UN and World Bank.
By creating these labels and these professions, these small subsets of responsibility and leadership, I feel somewhere we’ve said: “These people among us have been elected to give a damn about the world. The engineers, mathematicians, graphic designers, commerce folk - they don’t have to do anything.”
Since I fall into the above-demarcated group of people, this leads me to connect with a small subset of our population who feel the same. People like us are the ones that get the chance to have a voice and create an impact. And what’s the result of this? Entitlement and a disparity in society between the doers and the non-doers. We look to the world and say: “Hey, we’ll deal with the problems. You don’t need to bother about making the world a better place at all. It’s not your job.”
But isn’t it?
By creating a disparity between who takes action and who doesn’t, we’re creating a small subset of entitled people and a larger, more insensitive world.
We all have to stand up and say that it is our job to improve the world. We cannot rely on a few individuals to shoulder that responsibility. It is ours as well - and there is a very simple way to start right now.
I believe we can all create a better present and future if we feel connected to it. What if all of our circles of connectedness were just a little bigger than ourselves?
We’re all citizens of the world. Sitting in India, I can’t change what happens in Syria. But I can change what happens at home and what happens in my community. I can have a sense of connection with my surroundings. This feeling will automatically create a domino effect for change.
Solutions, such as making CSR policies for organizations, that force people into social work, aren’t a permanent solution. Although it might channel funds in the short term toward public service, these approaches have no substance and heart, which is why a lot of the money funnelled into public service never reaches the intended beneficiary. Because we are not connected, we don’t give and empathize naturally.
Creating this sense of ownership, connection, empathy and compassion should not be left to chance, but should be bred into all of us through the education system and how we raise our children.
Have you read?
If you’re reading this article and you’ve made it this far, you can start now by being mindful of the world around you. Being sensitive, being empathetic and feeling connected to your community and opening your heart as much as possible to the world. Take a moment to sit down and list what lies in your circle.
If you are an educator, make your students cognizant of the fact that they too can have an impact. And if you are one of the smaller subset – the doers – you have an even bigger role to play to empower everyone else around you to do what you do.
If all of us could feel connected to just one other person in the world, to our immediate environment or to the food we eat, this domino effect has the power to transform everything.
Sometimes the best solutions can be the simplest and sometimes all we need to do is simply find a connection.