For the past few days, like a lot of people, I have felt a deep and profound grief over the senseless deaths of nine beautiful people who were committing the innocent act of attending bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Men and women were shot dead due to the racism and hatred of one person, a person who was welcomed into Mother Emanuel with loving grace and kindness. I have so much anger at the shooter, and so much admiration for the victims’ families and friends for the forgiveness they are showing towards him. I truly don’t know if I could do the same.
So I sit here, thinking of what a messed up world we live in. Detestable hate crimes like what happened in Charleston seems to be never-ending and I just want to throw things or curl up into a little ball of sadness, anger and cynicism. But that wouldn’t be very productive, now would it?
And so I decided to read Zoe Weil’s book Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life.” I’m well aware that reading a book and writing a review will not change what happened in Charleston or heal race relations, but at this point, I think we can all use some positive vibes and some inspiration on how we can put some good out into a very broken society.
Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education. She also leads workshops on doing what she calls Most Good (MOGO). I can’t think of a more perfect person to motivate us to examine our values and let these values guide us in the decisions we make and the actions we take to better our world.
Most Good, Least Harm is divided into three parts-Looking Inward, Choosing Outward, and Getting Started.
In Looking Inward, Weil behooves us to take a good look at ourselves and discover our values-what do we hold dear in our hearts, minds, and souls. In this part, she gives us seven keys to MOGO.
Live Your Epitaph
Pursue Joy Through Service
Make Connections and Self-Reflect
Model Your Message and Work for Change
Find and Create Community
Strive for Balance
Once we figure out our values we learn how to get our values into the world by choosing outward. This is our values in tangible action and can include everything from the products and food we buy to the work we do. Weil also calls us to action through activism and volunteering and using the tools of democracy to the better of society. These could include writing to your senator or congressperson on issues that are important to you. This could include donating your money, time or skills to local charitable organizations. Weil provides a list of 10 principles for a MOGO life, which include things like transforming education and investing our money wisely. And to make this part of the book for palpable for the reader, Weil offers several stories of individuals who took MOGO to heart and are now make positive changes. A great by-product of living a MOGO life? Doing good feels good!
Finally, we come to the last part-Getting Started. We figured out our values. We’ve coming up with ways to put these values in action. Now what? To jump start implementing MOGO Weil gives us a questionnaire and action plan. She also gives us some food for thought with facts and statistics on various important issues. And finally, Weil gives us resources to help us further our commitment to MOGO lives. These resources include various websites, books and organizations.
Most Good, Least Harm is slim volume but it packs a wallop, the type of book you can refer to again and again on how to know your values and then how to put them in action. Some people might complain that Weil focuses a bit too much on what she values and how she’s implementing her values to be more MOGO, but I believe she’s just using her personal story as an example of MOGO, not a guide we have to follow or else.
Ultimately, once you read Most Good, Least Harm you feel a bit less lost and helpless and a lot more empowered. In our mixed-up, messed up world it’s time to MOGO!