“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.”
~ Lao Tzu.
I wasn’t great at Chemistry when I was in high school. Neither Chemistry nor Physics really got me excited. But I never forgot the concept of quantitative analysis versus qualitative analysis. We had burettes and pipettes and acids and litmus paper, and counted drop by drop to see how many drops of the acid it took to turn the paper from blue to red. It was not a gradual blending from blueish to purplish through to red. Like magic, it was blue one second, then one drop later it was red.
One drop. Sometimes that is all it takes to make a huge qualitative change. There are so many things in the world that need changing, it often appears undoable. Whether it is the civil war in Syria; the state of women and baby’s health in developing countries; disparities in health and wealth; or the state of the environment, how can we possibly make a difference?
I was listening (yes, NPR as usual) to an interview with John Paul Flintoff, author of the book: “How to change the world”, and yes, it is possible. Some points that he made are significant. First: you are not trying to change the whole world, just your world. If we get intimidated by the size of the task, we will never get started. And yet we already know that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (paraphrasing another of the Confucian Lao-Tzu’s sayings).
So how do we attempt the impossible? Why should we even bother? Because we must. Because there are so many things that need changing in our world, we have to do what we can to leave it a better place. Flintoff says that changing your world begins with naming the problem. He points out that identifying and naming something can be very powerful. The second step is to boycott the activity. If you want to improve the environment, start by refusing to use plastic (invest in those reusable grocery bags). The third step is to offer an alternative. And these actions begin a process of change.
If you read the biographies of the famous activists, most of them started small. Mother Theresa didn’t try to save thousands of lives, she started with the person in front of her. Martin Luther King didn’t start with the march on Washington, he started with small acts of civil disobedience. And Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. So we have big shoes to fill. But these very people started out barefoot.
When we make changes in our own small world, we create ripples of effect. And it may be that the change we need to make is in ourselves. Getting healthy requires the same steps noted above. Name the problem – I am overweight. Boycott the starchy, heavy calorie foods. Then create the change: increase your activity level; put healthy food in your refrigerator and your fruit basket and you have already begun the path to a healthier life.
There is a nurse theorist who describes health as expanded consciousness (Margaret Newman). If we don’t open our minds we can’t hope to be healthy. So much of our growth as human beings requires us to be open to change. We are our own worst enemies. We convince ourselves of failure without attempting a new way of life. But once we make the change, we impact not only our own life, we impact those around us. Subconsciously those watching us become more aware of the choices they are making. They try the kiwi instead of the croissant.
Small actions with big results. Can you imagine if we all committed to trying to change one small thing in our lives? The image of the drop of water which slowly over time erodes the toughest rock reminds us that even the smallest of acts can bring about transformation. And it doesn’t have to be a world-changing action. It can be that small act of kindness, that moment of acknowledging another person’s humanity that starts a chain reaction.
Margaret Mead, the anthropologist said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This Friday morning I challenge you to name the thing you believe needs changing, whether big or small. Whether it is a world problem, or a problem in your local community, or in your work place, give it a name. Then avoid it, stay away from it, or refuse to participate in it. And if you can, do something to change it. We can transform our world.
Let me know what you plan to change and I promise to support you in any way I can! Have a great Friday morning Family, and a wonderful weekend! I would like to give a shout out to a friend who shared her story with me this week that touched my heart, and who made me dance to a Beres song at work. She also sparked the connection of the ‘One Drop’ rhythm to the concept of one drop transformation. Thanks my friend!