On Sunday I was talking with a group of teenagers about a Habitat for Humanity project we are planning on undertaking next summer. We aren’t completely sure what we’re getting in to it, but so far, everyone is game. We pondered the question, What if? What if we did this? What if we are able to help someone besides ourselves? What if we can make a difference in one community? One family? It creates exciting possibilities.
Too often we get bogged down in the What Is. Adults, especially are guilty of this. The younger a soul is the more they seem able to indulge the What Ifs. My kids are full of What Ifs. What if I made a house by gluing together six thousand popsicle sticks – would it be big enough for me to live in? What if I shut the cat in the hamper and rolled it down the steps? What if I put a marshmallow in the microwave? The what ifs are endless.
But us adults, we get so stuck in What Is. What’s the point in recycling – there so much waste already. Why buy a greener car – there’s already a million gas guzzlers on the road. Or maybe our what is revolves around somebody else taking care of it. The government is working on that problem, I can’t solve it. It’s the school’s job to teach my kids. The media is everywhere, what’s one more hour in front of the television. All kids watch TV. They all have cell phones. They all eat processed food. Besides I’m no cook. We don’t have any extra money right now. I’m too busy. They’re too picky. We hide behind What Is. But it isn’t what has to be.
What if we turned off our TVs? What if the stupid thing broke and we never replaced it? What if you read a book with your kid (even if that kid can read it for themselves)? What if you wrote a book together? What if you tried canning food? What if you learned to bake bread? What if you taught your kids to eat healthy? What if you started a garden, or a window box, or even a pot of basil? Sure you don’t have time or money or your kids’ interest – that’s What Is. But if you want to change your life, you have to start asking What If. What if I took that course? What if I volunteered to help? What if I got involved in local politics? What if my kids and I start a project together? What if I eliminated just one processed food from my diet? What if I started making one basic staple of our diet – bread, yogurt, ice cream, granola, whatever. What if we did something differently or tried something new?
I don’t know what will happen if you change a habit or try something new, but I can tell you one thing, it won’t be a What Is anymore. The only way this world or our lives will change is if we start to think in terms of What Ifs and we don’t let the What Is get in the way. What if more people shopped with their conscience? What if we gave our time, money, ideas more freely? What if consumers demanded organic produce and supported local farmers? What if we cut our trash output in half? I read somewhere that a butterfly on the far reaches of the earth flaps its wings and there are consequences worldwide. Any small change you make will affect the planet, your community, and the people around you. Even if you’re only making a tiny dent in your health, your carbon footprint, or your children’s education, your actions might be an example others follow. And then there’s that whole snowball effect.
I won’t lie to you, What Ifs are risky. They can even be dangerous. They can be embarrassing, painful, time-consuming, and frustrating. But they make life so much more exciting. And they give us the opportunity to make a difference. People who change the world or their community or even their lives, are people who ask What if? For just today, try not accepting What Is and consider What If…..