Making the world more beautiful makes a difference

I didn’t drive my car yesterday nor did I spend any money. It was a commitment I’d made when I started this blog in January — to spend one day a week where I helped the Universe by not contributing to green house gases, and by not spending money.

And then, I started working downtown four days a week and 3 day weekends became times to ‘get things done’ including completing work for other clients as well. In the throes of ‘busy’ I took my focus off my commitment to not contribute to pollution and focused instead on cramming what I could into my available time every week.

The world shifted. Moved on. Continued to pass. But I wasn’t fulfilling on a commitment I had made.

I did it yesterday. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice at the beginning of the day. But, an appointment I could walk to, a meeting cancelled and the decision to work at home so that I could complete edits on a report and I was able to realign the workings of my day to include not driving my car.

In Barbara Cooney’s classic childhood story (and one of my daughters’ favourites), “Miss Rumphius”, a young girl named Alice tells the story of her great-Aunt Alice who liked to help her grandfather paint the figureheads he created for ships being built at the docks just around the bay and other art he created. One day, after helping him ‘paint in the skies’ on a painting, Alice told her grandfather she wanted to do what he had done, “When I grow up,” she told him, “I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

And he told her that no matter what, she must do something to make the world more beautiful.

In the storybook, little Alice grew into big Alice, a librarian who travelled the world, visiting far away places until she has an accident and comes back to live by the sea to recuperate. Not yet having done anything to ‘make the world more beautiful’, she begins to sow Lupine seeds where ever she goes on the tiny island where she lives. And suddenly, the world becomes more beautiful for the blue and purple and rose-coloured flowers blossoming in roadside ditches and along country roads and around the church and school and city hall.

In recounting the story of her great-aunt, little Alice, the story-teller, commits to doing as her namesake did, travel and see the world and live by the sea, and make the world more beautiful.

Sometimes, it’s not what we do that creates beauty, but what we don’t do.

Yesterday, I didn’t drive my car.

And, while in the grand scheme of things one person not driving their car for a day may not seem like a big difference, imagine if we all decided to spend a day not burning fossil fuels. Imagine if we all chose to walk, ride a bike, or use transit instead of driving our cars? That could add up to a big difference.

I started out unconsciously making a difference by not driving my car yesterday. By the end of the day I had become conscious of the choices I was making and realigned my day to support my commitment to make the world more beautiful by not doing something I habitually do.

It wasn’t a ‘big difference’ in the world, but within me it reconnected me to the power of my every act to change my world.

In the not doing, I was reminded of the power of my choices to make a difference in the world, and, perhaps even more importantly, it reminded me that no matter what I do, I must always do something to make the world more beautiful.


and… if you have 12 minutes to savour a story of beauty, do watch and listen to the telling of Miss Rumphius below. You will be moved by beauty.