A home is not a particular structure with objects inside. It is the sum total of the people who inhabit it. A neighborhood is likewise not just an address, a golf course or a community pool, but the essence of the many folks who live and work inside it. A school is so much more than just classrooms and desks and curriculum. It’s heartbeat is found in the students and teachers and parents who pour their hearts into it. A church is not the edifice or the clergy but the people who share a spiritual journey. A nation is far more than domed buildings, memorial statues, politicians and laws. It is the collective hope of the people.
We humans with all of our potential along with our imperfections are the true reason that any of the institutions that we have formed soar with the eagles or crash and burn in a state of destruction. Whether we realize it or not we have the power to set the tone wherever we decide to engage. When we see problems it is up to us to first look within ourselves and ask what we might have done to prevent the difficulties in the first place and what we plan to do to ensure that things improve. When we simply sit on the sidelines ignoring those who parade without clothes our troubles are sure to endure. More often than not making a difference means walking in the shoes of those who appear to have failed before we begin advocating far flung changes.
There are certainly enormously toxic situations in the world today that may worry us. Few people have the power to actually influence the entirety of society, so we have to conserve our energies by wisely choosing the battles that we are going to fight. Perhaps we should always keep in mind the old adage of putting our own house in order first. Love literally emanates from a home in which each person is loved and respected. Because we are all very human and prone to making mistakes, some of which are more grave than others, we must always be certain to include mercy in the daily workings of our households. An old adage suggests that we never allow the sun to set on our anger toward the people that we hold dear. In justice we may have to hold them accountable for bad behavior, but in mercy we should always forgive them once they have shown a willingness to atone.
Each of us have particular causes that resonate in our hearts. It may involve improving and providing excellence in education or reforming government systems. We can certainly vote to express our desires but the results often fall short of what we had hoped to accomplish with our trip to the polls. Keeping ourselves informed and taking the time to use all available avenues to express our ideas are ways that each of us can work toward the goals that linger in our hearts and minds. Sitting on the couch grumbling or shouting at those with opposing views does little to move the dial of any institution. Like the ants that almost silently move dirt to build a mound so too must we work with the people around us to quietly create a better world.
Each of us has a particular talent that will bring the kind of positive change that works for the betterment of the entire community. If we are respectful of what each person has to offer great things may happen. Teamwork is of the essence and we have to be aware that all groups and organizations follow a continuum of behavior that includes the process of forming and assigning tasks, periods of confusion and perhaps even disagreements, and eventually states of performing smoothly. Sometimes simply realizing that a situation is ignoring our human natures is all that is needed to grease the rails of success.
One of my heroes is Rosa Parks. She was a seamstress who lived in Montgomery, Alabama and worked at a popular department store. She altered the clothing of most of the well dressed white women in that city. She was liked by the customers of the store but her blackness reduced her to indignities that were untenable for such a refined and dignified woman. After work she rode home at the back of a city bus and on particularly crowded days she had to surrender her seat to any white person who wanted it.
We all know her legendary story by now. We marvel at her courage in refusing to participate in the demeaning injustice toward her people. Like the shot heard round the world, her simple act of refusing to leave her seat launched a movement that continues even today in the spirit of upholding the unalienable rights of all people. She demonstrated like so many have done that individuals begin the process of improving the world in which we live. All change happens one step at a time, one tiny pressure after another and its spirit lies in the willingness of humans to come together one by one.
All groups are complex. Creating a healthy family is no easy task. Guiding a school to caring for every individual inside its walls is daunting. Making a community or a city or a church or a nation a place noted for harmony is a balancing act of fully respecting each of the many beliefs of the participants. It requires great diplomacy and wisdom to keep all of our institutions working together. We can help by sending support to those who agree to work for a common good rather than a single idea. Doing so means that there will be many moving parts and numerous possibilities for disagreement, but it also provides a framework for the mutual respect needed for compromise. It is a system that works in the smallest and largest of relationships as long as all parties are willing to value and understand people.
There are no unicorns and always blue skies. There is no place like Atlantis. We can’t always have puppies and kittens making us happy. The reality is that it’s tough to make things work for each of us, but it is a worthy task. It’s only when we find ways to work together that great things begin to happen and sometimes such a relationship begins as quietly as that ant moving a tiny grain of sand.