Imagine a world where every child has a chance to lead a happy, safe, fulfilling life. Imagine a world where all people have a chance to develop to their full potential. Imagine a world where every old person feels loved and cared for, a world where no one is lonely.
But why imagine things that will never come to pass? you might ask. Wouldn't hard-nosed realism, even cynicism, serve us better in our often uncaring and brutal world?
You've heard the quote. "If you have built castles in the air," Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden, "your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
You care about the world, and you care about writing or else you wouldn't be reading this column, so why not let one serve the other? Why not let your writing be the foundation for the world you want to help build?
Maybe it's just a note to a teacher who made a difference in your life, something like this. "Dear Mr. Roman: Thank you for sharing your talent and your love of music with me and other members of our high school choir. Your gift has lasted me for more than 50 years, and it shows no signs of fading.
"I thought of you last weekend at the Old Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wis., where surrounded by 12 wassail singers I could hear each individual voice blending joyously with the whole.
"What a wonderful lesson you taught me, about music and about life. Thank you."
Or maybe this: "Hey, Tom, how's it going? Or maybe I should say, dear retired professor Douglass, thanks for making our 8 a.m. Spanish classes at the University of Iowa not only bearable but fun. I'll never forget how you would drop your piece of chalk when writing verb declensions on the board and you'd say, 'Sorry, I just washed my hands this morning and I can't do a thing with them.' Thanks too for all those years of intense racquetball games, just what a graduate student needed after sitting on his butt all day. Most of all, thanks for your friendship. Your example as a teacher, a loving husband, a wonderful father and a decent human being has inspired me for more than 40 years. Looking forward to our next visit in June."
Or maybe it's a note thanking a colleague at work for a favor, or better yet offering to do that person a favor. Maybe it's a blog or an article in your company newsletter. Maybe it's a letter to the Star Tribune editor about an issue you care deeply about like democracy, freedom of speech, voting rights, leadership or climate change. Maybe it's your next book.
Imagine a world where humankind lives in harmony, not only with itself but also with other forms of life, in balance with the planet's resources. Imagine the world as you would like it to be.
Now make it happen.
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.wilbers.com.