Make the World a Better Place

Steven Craig
5 min readFeb 22, 2024

Make the World a Better Place

“What is success?
To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded!”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each morning at our school, we as teachers take turns manning the drop-off line and welcoming each of our young proteges into the building. Some of my colleagues perform this ritual begrudgingly, themselves half awake and wishing they could be sitting at their desk grading week-old papers or simply enjoying a double espresso and some quiet time to themselves before the chaos of the day ensues. But I absolutely love this opportunity to greet my students as they walk through the door, bleary-eyed and dejected at the prospect of another eight hours of their prime years being wasted on listening to droning lectures on the impacts of the Korean War. From the moment they step out of the door, their white Conversed feet hitting the pavement of the parking lot, I greet them with my overly zealous cheeriness and usher them into the building with an enthusiasm that seems patently unnatural, especially without the influence of either copious amounts of caffeine or cocaine. I ask them how their night went, how their dog is doing, or what they watched on tv last night- anything pleasant to set them on the path of their day. But I always leave them with the saying that has come to be my catchphrase, the mantra which I live my life by and want to instill in them. “Go make the world a better place,” I tell them. And in so doing, I am challenging them to become the best of what the universe has to offer.

Now, I am not going to lie to you and tell you that my encouragement is roundly and universally embraced by these often angst-ridden teens. While many of them smile and respond positively to my morning message, others will occasionally shrug it off, sometimes even mumbling as they pass through the large glass doors something to the effect of, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” But that’s the thing about making the world a better place- it really doesn’t take much.

That’s not to suggest that the world is a shitty place and that anything we do must necessarily do something to improve it. No, the world, and its relative goodness or badness is all a matter of perspective and the circumstances one finds themselves in. The idea here is that even seemingly small choices and actions can move the needle, sometimes more than we can imagine.

Sometimes we feel that our good deeds must me monumental to be meaningful, but it is often the more routine gestures of good will that make all the difference. I am not going to cure cancer today, but I can give you a smile and some much-needed encouragement. I am not going to buy you a new house, but I can help you with your homework. I am not going to rescue a clan of Sudanese refugees, but I can listen as you pour your heart out with the tribulations of caring for an elderly parent. All of us, even those who are suffering in the context of their own tragedy-stricken lives, have the capacity to make the lives of those around us better. Pick up some trash. Go walk your neighbour’s dog. Give your partner an unexpected handy. Each of these adds just a little more happiness to a world that could desperately use it.

The way I like to think of it is to consciously live so that your choices create more of a positive than negative impact on the universe around you. That’s it. And while that may sound simple, let’s not forget that we are all responsible for plenty of negative consequences as well, whether we be conscious of them or not. Each of us has an environmental footprint. We get angry and say things we don’t mean. Perhaps we undermine the authority of our co-workers. Or maybe we are just the asshole (both figuratively and literally) that drops a bomb in the public restroom, rendering the facility entirely unendurable for at least a good 45 minutes. Either way, we all do bad shit. Don’t dwell on it. Just keep going out looking for those opportunities to offset your asshole footprint.

In some sense, Emerson sets the bar even lower, allowing for success to come in the form of even one life breathing easier because of us, but the idea behind his definition of success is much the same. The idea here is to do good. Not the big kind of good. Just the kind of good that you can manage on a daily basis. Just stop for a minute and think about how much better a place the world would be if we all lived by this simple precept. There would be a whole lot more smiles as people walk through the door. There would be fewer issues with mental health as every person would feel like they had at least one person they could reach out to in times of need. There would be less trash lining public roadways. And the upstairs office bathroom wouldn’t smell like Gary had Chipotle for breakfast.

Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at



Steven Craig

Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY. Read his blog TRUTH: IN 1000 WORDS OR LESS on Thursdays at