Volunteer and community activist Craig Kielburger shares some of his thoughts on the essence of community in this Me to We: Energy, ideas and courage
How the journey began.
Meet Craig Kielburger, who in 1995 founded Free The Children, an organization nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and recognized internationally for its innovative and youth-focused development work.
Twelve years ago, in April 1995, 12-year-old Craig came across an article in his local newspaper which forever changed his life. He read the story of Iqbal Masih, a boy from Pakistan, who was sold into slavery to work in a carpet factory. After escaping, Iqbal was callously murdered for speaking out against child labour. Craig was so upset that a young person could be so brutally treated that he gathered a group of his classmates together and founded Free The Children.
Today, Free The Children is the largest network of children helping children through education in the world, having directly impacted the lives of over one million youth in 45 countries through its innovative community development programs.
"In setting out to change the situation for others, we were changed. As we loved, we were loved. As we helped others to smile, we found happiness. As we poured energy into others, we discovered a strength we never knew we had." --Me to We: Turning Self-Help on its Head
Discovering the Me to We philosophy
Craig Kielburger recalls how encounters with key people and inspirational cultures have taught him valuable lessons.
Craig's mission to provide education for all children has led him to visit more than 40 countries; meeting underprivileged children and speaking out in defence of children's rights.
Travels far and wide, observing enlightening cultural traditions and encountering inspirational people, have left a deep and lasting impression on the young Kielburger. His journeys have taught him valuable lessons, bringing him around to a different perspective on life, community and happiness. These ideas are what make up the Me to We philosophy.
"Happiness is not a solitary pursuit. It is not just about us. It is about us in relationships with others and the world. The surest way to find real happiness is to cultivate relationships and reach out to our community -- on all levels of our daily existence."
--Me to We: Turning Self-Help on its Head, (pages 57-58)
Me to We embraces the belief that we can find happiness and purpose through reaching out to others. It involves focusing less on "me" and more on the collective "we" -- on our friends, our communities and on global society as a whole. In essence, Me to We maintains that by helping others you help yourself!
Living Me to We
Experience a healthy and fulfilling way of life.
In fact, this simple philosophy has been validated by the research of doctors, psychologists, and anthropologists alike. Social involvement lowers stress levels, strengthens immune systems, prevents illnesses, and thereby enhances overall physical health.
Community participation also leads to greater mental health and emotional wellbeing, as it helps people avoid and overcome the anxiety, depression, and emptiness that stems from feeling socially isolated.
Friendships and social bonds
The key ingredient is simpler than one might think.
The many benefits of living Me to We come directly from the health-giving power of personal relationships. As humans, we have a deep and fundamental need for belonging and social connection. And the best way of meeting this need is through community and social involvement-making friends and helping others.
Solid relationships are built on trust; through spending time getting to know people, by helping friends and through accepting the help of others in return.
Helping also takes many forms. Emotional help, such as listening when a friend needs to talk, is as important as the practical side of helping (like driving someone to the doctor or picking up their mail when they're away on vacation).
Crisis demands action, and the benefits of social connections are never more clearly seen than when we face important life challenges. In rough times, the relationships we have built become our most important assets -- bringing us comfort and reassurance -- and helping us get back on our feet and on with our lives. When friends support friends, a culture of mutual support is built that allows for healthier, and less traumatic, life transitions.
In short, living Me to We involves realizing that every person needs a strong network of friends and supporters and that people are happiest when looking outside of themselves to express empathy and compassion for others.
How does one person make a difference?
Community is the place to start.
This begs the question -- how do I get more involved? How can I begin moving from "me" to "we"? So many of us feel that in our increasingly fast-paced world, we are becoming more isolated, spending more of our time busy, with less time for others. It feels as if we have lost any sense of community, with no idea how to get it back.
However, the message of Me to We is that community is all around us! It is the people we work with, our friends, family and neighbours. In order to rebuild our communities, we need to think deeply about what is truly important in our lives, how we want to spend our time, what values we want to guide our actions, and the legacy we want to leave for our children. By asking these questions and learning to prioritize, we can create the time we need to commit to helping those around us.
Me to We in every day life
Try these actions to get a head start.
To live Me to We, you must simply remember that it's not an idea, but a way of living. The fundamental elements are to get involved, talk to people, spend time with others, be willing to pitch in, and to ask for help when you need support. There is no single best way to live Me to We, and no magic formula for getting started. You need to simply start in your own life, wherever you are, and however possible.
Never forget the power of random acts of kindness. Here are three actions to get you started:
1. Write a letter to someone expressing how much you appreciate them.
2. Knock on a friend's door and invite them for coffee or tea. We guarantee that this surprise visit will brighten up someone's day!
3. Help out a neighbour or a friend by offering to pick up their groceries, run a small errand or to baby-sit their children so they can enjoy a night out.
Me to We support
Contact us will all of your questions.
Me to We requires energy, ideas and maybe even courage, but the payoff is huge: personal growth, happiness, a sense of fulfillment and a longer and healthier life.
If you are interested in finding out more about living Me to We, then please get in touch! Visit www.metowe.org or pick up the bestselling book, Me to We: Turning Self-Help on its Head by Craig and Marc Kielburger.