I once heard the following story in the audio book, Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. A young father was doing his thing - watching Sunday football, doing his work, etc - when his son kept interrupting him with question after question. Annoyed of this behavior, the father looked for something to occupy his son and he found a magazine page with an image of the world🌏. He tore out the page, tore the page of the world into many pieces, and challenged his son to put this makeshift puzzle together.
The son took the pieces, sat to work, and remarkably finished in a short time. “All finished!” He shouted to his father in pride.
“How is it you finished so quickly?!” The father asked in amazement.
“Easy,” said the boy, “when I started to put the world together, I saw a picture of a man on the other side of the page. So, I just put the man together. When I put the man together right, the world ended up right, too!”
Often, there is a passion inside us to heal the world and to right the wrongs in the world. But, what is the world? Everything within the world, is a world itself. In fact, there is an “ancient Jewish teaching that if you’ve saved one person’s life, you’ve saved an entire world.” All of these individual worlds are within the same world.
We can want to heal the world, heal a nation, heal a country, heal a community, heal an environment, heal one’s family, and so on. Prior to healing something in the world, it must be healed within you. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (founder of the chassidic movement) taught: “Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering - you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”
This is interesting because there are also teachings that encourages individuals to change the environment they’re in and the people they’re around in order to grow. One such quote is: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower,” by Alexander Den Heijer.
On one hand if I notice something unclean I should leave it, but on another hand it means that it is a reflection of my own imperfection. How do we resolve this seeming conflict? In truth, it’s not one and another hand, but together as one hand cupped together 🤲. If the observation of a world in need of healing, or to change environments, or something imperfect about another person leads to anger and frustration ie some reaction, then it is a reflection of one’s own "imperfection.” If, however, in seeing the flaw of the world, an environment, or a fellow person, and it leads to intentional action, a thoughtful response, then you are healing that world, environment, or person by your presence.
For example, if you have a tendency to react in frustration when someone picks an argument with you, they begin to scream, and you scream back, then “you are being shown what it is you must correct within yourself.” However, if this same situation occurs and in the face of the person yelling at you (or even just upon seeing someone act frustrated), you stand firm, still, and silent, thinking non-judgmentally, “that used to be me, but not anymore,” then, you have successfully put together a puzzle piece of your world and held the space for that person to become aware of their own area of improvement, thus diffusing the fire and healing him. This is how to put together one puzzle of a man, which is an entire world.
Furthermore, the reason we may be in a certain environment or noticing something about the world or another person, is because it’s our purpose to heal it. There is a story of a man who was sick and went to the hospital. He wrote or called to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask for a blessing for health and to leave the hospital. In response, the Rebbe told him that nobody ends up somewhere for no reason, once his purpose there is accomplished he will recover and be allowed to leave.
Finally, our Patriarch Yosef Ha'Tzaddik (Josef the Righteous one) was one who taught us that we can positively influence whatever environment we’re in. Why? Because the potential we have within is to be greater than the environment!
You are a world. What is your world made of? Where are you spiritually and physically, and how can you heal that place? What in your life can you reconfigure into a coherent puzzle? There’s another meaningful Jewish teaching that “each and every person must say ‘the world was created for me.‘“
Heal yourself. Heal others. Heal the world.