We can’t all be rock stars. But we can be activists like U2 lead singer and musician Bono.
If you don’t know Bono’s music or his activism work, let me give you the highlights of his biography. This middle aged Irish musician fronts one of the most popular and respected bands in the world. And when he’s not making music he devotes himself to saving the disempowered of the world from hunger, poverty and disease. By his own definition he’s a “Jumped-up Jesus,” a man with a Messiah complex bent on social justice.
To give you an idea, read how Bono describes the purpose of ONE, the non-profit group he founded. It goes like this — “ONE is a hard-headed movement of people around the world fighting the absurdity of extreme poverty.” Gotta love this Irishman’s gift with words.
But it’s more than words, it’s deeds. With the help of ONE’s more than three million members, Bono is fronting a movement to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime.
On Feb. 26 of this year, Bono spoke about the progress his organization and others have made in the fight to end global poverty. And the news was surprisingly uplifting. Since 2000, eight million AIDS patients have received retroviral drugs. Malaria deaths have been cut in some countries by 75%; child mortality rate of kids under five are down by 2.65 million deaths per year. And here is the kicker: extreme poverty has declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000 to 21% by 2010.
Bono thinks it is possible to end extreme global poverty in our lifetime. How’s that for a mission?
I was encouraged and inspired reading this. And I began to think…if ONE person could be the fuel that could light the fire in so many hearts, if ONE person could be the voice that sang out against hopelessness, hunger, disease and despair, what would a chorus of voices sound like reveberating in harmony throughout the globe?
It’s almost too big to imagine. And while activists like Bono bring out the best in us, I think they can also intimidate us. After all, saving the world can be a daunting mission.
But to this, I say, start small. You don’t have to be a “Jumped-up Jesus” to jump in. You don’t have to change the world, but you can work to change your part of it. Maybe it is as simple as volunteering at the local animal shelter. Or visiting a loved one in a nursing home. Maybe it’s offering a kind word to a stranger in need of a kind word or deed.
In my humble belief system, I think we can actually change the world, save it even, by saving ourselves. It begins with changing the way we look and talk to ourselves. Are we often harsh and critical and unloving to ourselves? And through these critical eyes, how do we see the world? How do we measure ourselves; is it by our sameness or is it by our differences?
Let’s start with how we divide people into us and them, politically, religiously, socially. That’s separatism, not oneism. In the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching teaches that we are all connected and what is done to ONE, is done to all.
Maybe now at midlife, as we shed parts of a life that no longer belong to us, we consider the value of expanding our definitions of love. Of charity. For both ourselves and others.
As I talk about in my book, Tao Flashes, love creates more space; it is as limitless as the distance between heaven and earth. Love unravels the knots in our existence and it creates the pathway to a meaningful life. At midlife, when we question our purpose the most, know that our calling is love, it is service.
Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to be of service. You just need to serve.