Thursday, December 8, 2011

Everything I Needed To Know: Power of One

Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In My Fortieth Year. Let's start this series. Except... the title should probably reference my 41st year, not the 40th, if what I learned settled in post-birthday #40. Right? Who out there can do math?

------------------

Such a silly story, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Kids at the bus stop. Standing on a corner and crossing the street to get on the bus, every day. Every day crossing the street in front of the bus, backing up when the bus driver yells for them to wait for the safety bar to extend, waiting for the bar, crossing again. Every day.

Until the day my husband was out of town and bus stop duty was my turn. I saw the crossing. I scratched my head. I conducted research with the other parents and determined, the next morning, that there was no good reason to stand where everyone was standing.

"Kids, we're crossing the road."

Parents thanked me. Admitted they didn't know why they were standing where they did. Admitted they did it "just because." Every day they had their kids join in on something they were pretty sure didn't make sense. A whole mess of them. Just because.

It took a few days for the change to set in. But now, months later, nobody remembers standing over there.

A small moment in time; my bus story. It's no Rosa Parks bus story, but for me, the implications are profound.

I can change the world. Anybody can. People laugh when I say the shoebomber changed the world, but it's true: people everywhere, everywhere, must take off their shoes before boarding a plane. This man changed everything, and not for good. The moral of my bus story is that you can change things for the good.

In my first post on the year's lessons , I mentioned noticing that all my lessons have a parallel component, like two sides of a coin.

Here, it's this: You don't have to change the world yourself. I didn't say by yourself, I meant you, changing the world through another channel.

When I first heard that a video of my reading with ex-prisoners was played in prison, sparking conversation and tears, the first thing I did was try to figure out what I was doing that very moment.

Probably in my laundry room, I figured, moping in self-pity over the big piles.

The next thing I did was mesh the two thoughts together: I can put time into this one thing, and as I go about the quotidian tasks of life, it can go on making a difference without me.

When I taught Theatre of the Oppressed at a conference, some of my students came to me after and pledged themselves to helping various causes: the sex trade, race relations. I could do this one thing, prep hard and draw on all my training and experience, and it could keep going, and keep changing lives.

When I learned that a local initiative invests up to $5000 in good ideas, I thought of my friend Shari. I could invest a little research and writing time, and Shari's dream, The Village, could come true and help a whole lot of people. (Only a couple more days left to vote: 5x5night.com)

The bus. It keeps traveling through my mind, moving me to the place where goodwill and potential and hard work meet. All aboard!

2 comments: