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Changing the World One Day at a Time

By: Emily Kay Shrader
Modesto Bee

Everyone dreams of changing the world. But can teenagers really make a difference? And how should we go about it?

Michael Norton's book "365 Ways to Change the World" is a good starting point. The book gives an inspiring idea or task to do for every single day of the year. The tasks range from recharging batteries to volunteering at a local homeless shelter to hugging a tree.

The book says that one simple act, no matter how small or how complex, can make an impact on someone in need. It may even influence other teens to rise above the status quo and do something.

Enochs High School junior Nathan Anthony agrees. Nathan believes teens have a huge potential to make their mark on the world and change it little by little.

"It is impossible to achieve anything in life without giving something to someone or giving your effort at school or work," Nathan said.

Another Enochs junior, Ariane Mota, echoed that view.

"Giving is our way of repaying those who help you," she said. "Whether it is a helping hand or a donation, we ought to help others to improve their day or life.

"Teens should learn respect," Ariane said. "Respect for themselves, their peers, their families and their country. If we were all nicer, it would be easier to live in our world."

"365 Ways to Change the World" also offers helpful Web sites such as www.organicbouquet.com, where teens can send flowers to someone with an illness, and www.onlinevolunteering.org, where teens can find more information about how and where they can volunteer their time.

Nathan agrees that teens have the power to change the world -- they just need to a leader to follow first.

"Kids are influenced by parents," he said. "We learn to emulate them or rebel against them. Therefore, change starts with our parents, and kids will follow their example."

Other teens feel there are things they can do to help, they just don't know where to start.

"There is so much to be done, but we have only a small amount of time to do it," Nathan said.

How often do teens see their peers helping a stranger or doing something nice for someone out of the blue? According to Nathan, not a lot. He and Ariane both believe this needs to be changed, and teens have the opportunity to make that change a reality.

So how do the few teens out there who do help show their compassion for others?

"I help my friends by reminding them that their life is better than other, less fortunate people, and they must appreciate the small blessings they receive every day," Nathan said. "Humor is also a great tool."

So whether you're helping to find a cure for cancer or simply smiling at a stranger, teens have the ability to change the world for the better right now.

"An open ear and a hug can suffice for a friend in need," Nathan said. "Often, the best way to help someone is starting out with a question: 'How can I help you?' "

Check out http://365ways.blogspot.com/ for ways to make a difference, one day at a time.

Emily Kay Shrader is a junior at Enochs High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.



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