Opinion | This year, make a decision about something bigger than yourself

In “Leaves of grass”, Walt Whitman writes: “This is what you will do: love the earth, the sun and the animals, despise riches, give your soul to anyone who asks, defend the stupid and the mad”. And he continues: “Reexamine everything you have been told in school, in church or in any book, ignore everything that insults your soul, and your own flesh will be a great poem.”

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a helpful solution, Whitman isn’t a bad place to start.

The task of improving the world may seem impossible, but it is not. All that is needed is the correct sequence of correct discrete decisions. Decisions are just resolutions with teeth.

One of my editors told me a story from his childhood on his grandparents’ farm in Iowa. The little boy, looking at acres and acres of corn, asked his grandfather, “How are we going to shuck all that corn?” His grandfather used to say, “One line at a time.”

This too is the way to improve the world. And we can start small.

Personally, I promise that I will often visit a children’s hospital and try to distract children with stories, the funnier, the better. I promise that I will phone all the lonely people I know – and there are many – at least twice a week, just to chat and make them feel part of the world of the living. I promise to give souls to all who ask, and to those who do not, and to defend the stupid and the mad, the more stupid and mad, the better. I promise to keep an eye on strays (cats, dogs and people) and offer them safety and comfort. I vow to see every wrong as a threat, every hurt an opportunity.

What will you do – right now, this week, this month – to create a better world? Organize a protest. Send a letter to right a wrong or offer friendship. (A thoughtful, understanding letter to a friend who is suffering or distressed is a powerful thing.) Lend a hand. Offer a word of comfort, inspiration, support or love. Donate money or, most precious of all, time. There are so many ways to move this world, right at your fingertips.