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It only takes one person to make a difference in the world. Is it you?

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 11:39 a.m. MDT

Lots of people bemoan the state of the world — the problems feel a bit overwhelming. War. Terrorism. Ebola. Homelessness. Poverty. Unemployment. Bullying. Sagging grades. Family dysfunction. The environment. Have you stepped up for one of them?

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News from around the world is enough to make one want to snuggle under the covers and sleep some more. The problems seem a bit overwhelming.

Terrorism. Ebola. War. Poverty. Unemployment. Homelessness. Substance abuse. Family dysfunction. Sagging ability to compete globally in math or science. Crime. The environment. The disappearing middle class.

You can pick the one that scares you most or add another to the list.

My friends Jenifer and Jewel are passionate about preventing animal abuse, and so is my daughter Jeni. My daughter Alyson has a heart to help children who are ill or hungry. They all back it with action.

My niece is into sustainability, which is also a passion for one of my bosses and another friend. My lawyer buddy Danny is an anti-war activist who writes extensively on the issue.

My friend Earl knits caps for residents of the battered women's and homeless shelters. My friend Twila crochets gowns for babies born too soon to survive, so their parents have something lovely to bury them in. It's a carefully crafted acknowledgement from a stranger that the tiny baby existed, and it mattered to others, too.

I help at my kid's school (sometimes) and (occasionally) pack meals with members of my church to send to Third World countries. But I also used to teach literacy and feed the poor. Life got hectic and I'm tired and there aren't enough hours in the day and ...

I'm not sure what my girls would tell you that I stand for these days, because I'm too often sitting down, discussing the problems of the world without picking a cause and trying to chip away at it.

Recently, talking to parents about other topics, it has become interesting to ask whether they are activists of any sort. I'm heartened — and a bit ashamed of myself — as I learn how many of them are trying to actively have an impact. Some act in smaller ways like my own efforts to recycle and be pickier about what I consume. It all counts.

But the ones who take my breath away and spark huge admiration and even envy are those with a passion that lights them up and drives some of their days.

I met a woman a few months ago who regularly helps Iraqi women fit into the communities into which they've been settled as refugees.

My kids and lots of their friends worked hard to raise money to help the American Red Cross eradicate measles in other countries.

My friend Steve repairs junkers in his spare time for impoverished people who need reliable transportation to get to jobs that may one day help them climb up the economic ladder.

Interestingly, some of the most generous people I know with time and resources are those who have little of either. I guess they've been there, suffered that.

I think it's really important for children to see that their parents care passionately about something outside of their own habitat, which in my definition includes not just the home, but circle of friends, work place and immediate neighborhood.

It's also important to teach children to pick a place to try to make their own difference, whether it's standing up to the bullies they encounter in school or raising money to support services for homeless teens.

My daughters can't curb the tide of runaways or solve all the issues that foster kids will face. But they can raise the money for a youth or two in foster care to have a scientific calculator when they take the tests that might get them into college.

And I can do more than tally the world's woes and wish someone would solve them.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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