Often the enormity and callousness of the day’s events leave us feeling disconnected and dispirited — powerless to make a difference. “The problems are so, so big,” we say to ourselves. “There’s nothing I can do.” 

Have you ever gone camping and tried to start a fire? You know the story: You can’t find wood; no one brought any newspaper; it starts to rain. But you scrape together some supplies, clear a spot, and find a few matches in the bottom of someone’s backpack. Wow, those matches look old. And it sure is raining. 

You strike one, two, three — they all fizzle out. With a single match left, you adjust a piece of cardboard, your friend holds her hand just right, your buddy mumbles an offering to the Universe (or was he cursing?), and you strike it. Shazam — it catches. You have to scramble for the first few minutes to keep it lit, and a gust of wind nearly sends the whole thing down the hill. But after a few minutes your little fire is going pretty well. After ten minutes you’re warming your hands, and after 15 you take off your jacket. 

I’ll tell you what: Any day of the week I’m going to bet on your power to be a match over the world’s ability to keep you cold and wet. Here are twelve ways to get something lit:

  1. Say hello to someone you’ve never met, without worrying about whether they think you’re weird.
  2. Write a quick email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. 
  3. Let someone cut in front of you in line. “No, please — go ahead.”
  4. Pick up a piece of trash in a public place, even if it wasn’t yours.
  5. Say to someone, “You know, that was a really good point.”
  6. Ask a friend, “Are you okay?”
  7. Say “please” and “thank you.” It’s easy to forget. 
  8. Raise your voice about something you support, even if you think no one is listening.
  9. Raise your voice about something that disturbs you, especially if you think no one is listening.
  10. Tell your parents you love them. They know it, but it means something to hear it.
  11. Tell your kids you’re proud of them. They don’t know it, and it means everything to hear it.
  12. Tell yourself you matter, even if you don’t believe it. Believe it.

It’s true that the world’s winds are going to howl and wail no matter what you do.

But the world isn’t on fire — you are. Your little spark isn’t as little as you think.