Erin Hanson, a 21-year-old poet from Australia, captured the world’s attention with her beautiful words:

There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky. And you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, “What if you fly?”

I want us to soar high in the new year, surprising ourselves as we discover the greatness within. I want us to use our talents to continue writing a legacy of love, compassion and change. But I know all too well that voices of self-doubt will complicate our journey and naysayers will erect barriers of disbelief. We’ll be overwhelmed by both the greatness that has proceeded us and the enormity of the issues that need addressed to meet even the most basic needs of individuals around the world.

Here are the facts. 795 million people – 1 in 9 – go to bed hungry every night. Several hundred thousand civilians have been killed in the Syrian Civil War including an estimated 16,000 children who dreamed of just surviving another day. Here at home in the U.S., 43.1 million people are living in poverty with over 560,000 of them homeless on any given night. I could go on stating additional statistics focused on diverse social issues.

The most important question is this – Are we falling…or flying?

The choice is ours each day we open our eyes and step out of bed. We can look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Who am I to make a difference?” We can listen to the news or read the paper and say to ourselves, “Such depressing stories,” as we carry on with our daily routine. We can complain about how this leader or that leader hasn’t done their job while taking little action of our own. We can go on angry rants via social media ridiculing the posts of family, friends and strangers with opposing views. We can call ourselves a victim of the world around us and blame others for not taking action.  We can live within the confines of our comfort zone, interacting with those that look like us, talk like us and think like us.  We can convince ourselves that it is someone else’s responsibility to win the game while we critique their moves from the sidelines.

We have a choice to make…to fall or to fly.

We fly when we focus our attention on solutions and step up to take action. We fly when we focus on progress – the fact that there are 3.5 million people less in poverty this year compared to last, that $168 million dollars was donated to community organizations on Giving Tuesday – one day alone – in over 98 countries, or that our high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high of 83%. We fly when we acknowledge that there is much work to do while elevating what is working and innovating new solutions to advance even greater progress.

Don’t think that you can fly? 

If you think it is unfair that teachers spend so much of their paychecks to put supplies in the hands of their students, then purchase office/school supplies and art materials from Yoobi.com who will donate one item to a classroom in need for each item purchased. Or join other donors in supporting a teacher on DonorsChoose.org – you pick the community, teacher, and even the school subject to support.

If you know where your next meal will come from and you appreciate your stable job, help feed someone who is hungry and employ artisans around the globe by purchasing bags, accessories, clothing and gifts from FEEDprojects.com.

If you care about the environment and want to sustain the planet for future generations to come, consider conserving water while brushing your teeth or recycling canned goods, bottles and paper products. Support organizations such as ThreadInternational.com who transforms trash from the poorest communities into responsible fabric.

We don’t have to fall…we can fly!

People are flying all around us…14-year-old Joshua Williams in Miami FL is mobilizing 10,000 youth volunteers to feed the hungry. 60 General Motors retirees spend their summer mentoring college interns and high school students in Detroit MI. Carolyn, a crossing guard in Pittsburgh PA, consistently shows up every morning and afternoon to ensure the safety of kids in her neighborhood – and informally mentors kids through her positive example. Nick, an instructional coach / teacher, integrates music and games into his classroom to energize students and accelerate academic performance. Jason, a filmmaker, tells stories that inspire change. Chloe, a barista at a local coffee shop, remembers each customer by name and their routine order.

As we close out 2016 and embark upon a new year, let’s look out for those that are flying around us and channel their energy in taking flight ourselves. Together, we can bypass the negativity and self-doubt, discover the greatness within, and accelerate progress.

I look forward to soaring with you in 2017!