Friday, February 17, 2006

Changing the world...

My husband found this quote this morning and shared it with me. "This is you...", he said...

The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt. -
Frederick Buechner

I was honored, first of all, that he pays close enough attention to my ramblings to recognize my perspective in the quote, and I was amazed at how accurately it reflected my own approach to affecting change in the world.

I have experienced a bit of inner conflict in the past about whether or not I was shirking responsibility because I do not choose to be politically active. I do vote, and I do pay attention to what's going on...but I don't practice the "political activism" the some do. To this point, I've never stood on the roadside with signs or volunteered for a candidate. My approach has always been that I would affect change one person at a time through my interaction and my life.

The conflict, I suppose, comes from the fact that I admire the bold, visible steps taken by those who call themselves activists. It takes time, energy, and courage to do what they do and there is no doubt that they are instrumental in raising awareness and mobilizing others to action. Often I would wonder if I was guilty of ignoring my own responsibility in such things. You won't find anyone more devoted to the cause of peace than I. You won't meet anyone who believes more strongly in fair and equal treatment for all. You'll never meet anyone who wishes more for the end of racial injustice and conflict. If I believe so strongly in the causes, why aren't I out there with the other activists?

The answers came when I turned inward and looked to the source of the conflict - me. I was the one asking the questions, after all. And I realized that I was concerned mostly that others would think that I didn't care because they didn't see me participating in political activity. And if they thought I didn't care about those things, they would never realize how important I believe the message to be and how vital it is to work toward peace and the end of injustice.

So, I asked myself, is that true? Is it reasonable to think that those who know you and those who observe you in the world won't know how you feel? That, of course, led me to examine my life - a process that is always beneficial and rarely comfortable. Would my daily habits, my interaction with the world around me, hold up against what I profess to believe?

When you shine a light through even the heaviest of fabrics, it's easy to see the holes. I have holes. Lots of them. Fewer now, I believe, than when I started the inspection, but there are still enough to let me know that I have work to do, enough to keep me busy for many lifetimes.

But here's the thing: All in all, I'm satisfied that my life is my political activism. I try, imperfectly though it most certainly is, to live the ideals that I hold dear. Every touch of another life, however brief, is an opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors and beliefs that I would have spread throughout the world. Each contact is an opportunity to treat others with respect, to look for the unique good in each person, to assume innocence first and realize that people act according to what they believe, even when they don't recognize the belief. Every meeting, chance or planned, is an opportunity to consciously decide to open my door, open my heart, and open my mind to a fellow traveler. Every encounter with people who are different from me...culturally, racially, sexually, spiritually...is an opportunity to practice what I would preach, to put aside prejudices (and we all have them, after all) , and to know the individual human being standing in front of me.

This is political activism, one person at a time. I am the sign I carry on the street corner. I am the pamphlet I distribute. It is through my actions and my example that I have the opportunity to touch another life, a life that will touch countless others. Who knows where the trembling may stop?

1 comment:

  1. This blog entry definitely speaks to the inner conflict I struggle with, in regards to politics and other things. There are so many things that I believe in and that I want to see take place in our country and around the world, but there is never one person or one side that I agree with completely. I vote, but then I feel guilty about my vote for four years when I see gas prices soaring and people in other countries starving to death, or dying from illnesses we could be supplying medicine for while we are fighting a war that is costing us billions. I wonder if someone else could have made a difference.
    I want to be a part of something that matters. I want to raise awareness for things like child abuse, verbally and sexually abused teens, the need for medical supplies in parts of Africa, and on and on...but I have always thought, "I'm just me". Those three words have plagued me my entire life. I always wonder, "What difference can I make?"

    I realized last year that I am always reaching out to others. I'm always striving to make each person I meet or come in contact with feel special. I don't want to have someone think for once second that I don't see them as an equal or that I don't see them as an important part of my life, even if only for a moment.

    That's when I realized the ripple effect was a large part of what I was doing. I smile at the lady emptying my trash can and ask her how her day is every day. I always wink and smile at children that I see. They usually smile back or wave. I still compliment people at work when I know they do not care for me, and I still look them in the eye. I offer a helping hand to the elderly lady at the store when she can't find her discount card. I tell angry old men that I know they need a hug when they are in cross moods, and usually I get a smile out of them. I send my boyfriend love notes and stick my tongue out at him for no reason.

    I may not be feeding children that are starving or curing deadly diseases, but I'm causing someone to smile, if only for a moment, and I believe a smile can change the world.

    I feel like that really matters.

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