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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"The Well-Balanced World Changer" (Sarah Cunningham)

TITLE: The Well-Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane While Doing Good
AUTHOR: Sarah Cunningham
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013, (288 pages).

How do we pursue our highest ideals and still remain grounded in reality? What can we do to stay sane in the midst of doing good? We have frequently seen how the best of intentions come up in the worst possible ways, or the worst scenarios averted through some fortunate encounters. If there is any one thing that young people typically faces, it is this: The world is not as pretty as one's dreams. At the same time, there is another voice that says: The world is not as bad as you think. Thus, Sarah Cunningham in this book tries to walk the thin rope between idealism and realism, pitting the ideals of doing good versus the reality of open struggles of life. Calling herself an "idea junkie," South Michigan based author Sarah Cunningham presents to us ten broad ideas to help us be a "well-balanced world changer."

Unlike books that talk about goals and purposes, Cunningham prefers to focus on the existing paths of "surviving it." In "Worth and Success," she urges us to be bold in honesty and authentic living. We learn that opportunities need to be earned rather than given, showing us that too often, students blame their teachers for poor grades when teachers are actually grading according to the students' work. In other words, students earn their grades, not teachers. Along with it, she reminds readers over and over that success needs to be humbly accepted and pride curtailed. On "Health and Balance," we learn about the constant pursuit of happiness that needs to be balanced with an awareness of the needy. We learn about the need to exercise wisdom in our choices. On "Peace and Perseverance," we are reminded that God has not given up on us, and that we too are not to give up on ourselves. "Risk and Control" contains some encouragement to venture forth into the unknown, and to learn to take responsibility for what we can control and not be too distracted by those things we cannot control. "Alignment and Relationships" reminds us once again the importance of friends and human relationships, and how working with people can make or break. "Plans and Priorities" looks toward the goal of living, to learn about things that matter and avoid things that are not. Sections 7 and 8 look at the internal makeup of "Passion and Identity" with "Desires and Frustrations" showing us that the best opportunity for change is ourselves and how frustrations can arrive through improper alignment of our energies toward money, disillusionment, criticisms, and external bullies. Amid the depressing mood of failure, one needs to adopt a posture of "Faith and Expectations" that we ought not to throw away our hopes but resolve to hang on to God's promises. Finally, "Humility and Perspective" brings us back to community focus and neighbourly living.

So What?

There are many clever quips and advice in this hugely ambitious book. The chapters are short, which reminds me of the style of the popular blogger Seth Godin who is well known for putting his ideas in a short and concise manner. When I read the ten sections and the chapters within them, I was trying hard to piece together how representative the chapters are to the sections. Not all the chapters sync well with the overall theme of the section.  Sometimes, I feel that chapters can stand on their own instead of being straitjacketed into the specific section. For example, I find it hard to see any link between "Peace and Perseverance" with "The Next Billy Graham." Sections 7 and 8 seem to be twin chapters that can be combined. The chosen section titles can also be problematic as I am unable to see some intuitive link between them. For instance, it is easy to see the need to try to balance war and peace, and laziness versus perseverance, but "Peace and Perseverance?"

Overall, there are a lot of good ideas in this book, but it is written in a manner that is very free spirited and somewhat unstructured. Kudos to Cunningham for producing a book that is saturated with ideas. What is needed most is some hand-rails to guide readers on what Cunningham is trying to say. If it is meant to be a "field guide," than make it more accessible with indexes, maps, diagrams, illustrations, or a general explanation of what each section is trying to do. A library is best utilized with catalogs to help patrons find their resources fast. This book needs a catalog to help readers find the stated ideas.

If I were to recommend a purchase, I will suggest buying an e-book so that readers can search using their e-book programs in the absence of an index in the printed version. 

Rating: 3.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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