Be the change you wish to see

This is a (very) rough draft of an essay for a book  I’m currently writing.  If you’d like to see my progress check the journal I’m keeping.  

My dad always likened himself to a rock and given his bald head, great fitness for his age, and stubbornness I always thought this was about right. His rockness always seemed to be a challenge for me to get over. Adaptation and change were never parts of this core philosophy. Certainly he adapted and changed in life but the idea that deep down he was a rock has always been there and maybe it needs to be there in all of us.

Yesterday I watched the nightly news. The first stories were a plane crash, unrest in an overseas country, and a murder trial. I could give more details but I won’t because you don’t need any more, that’s the news nearly every night. If it bleeds it leads.

The world is a wild place and I know that from sitting here and writing in my little country town. I’ve never been near an actual murder and never known anyone who has. I’ve lived a very safe and sheltered life that most people would die for that some, sadly, actually do.

Life is like a rough set of seas along a shoreline. The wind is whipping so much that birds don’t venture there. Waves are crashing around, tossing driftwood and any other unlucky items around like little children playing the parachute game with small plastic balls. The earth and sea are showing their powers, tempting anything to try and pass and come out the same. The only constant are the rocks.

The rocks stand there, tall and strong. The rocks do wear but only over a long time and never sacrifice their positions in the surf. They stand there as if to say Life, you may crash your waves upon me, slice your winds around me, and burn your sun above me but I will not move.  And if you or I were in this surf, struggling as the crowd of waves descended like an angry gang or drunk hooligans we would have to search for these rocks, find these rocks, and cling to these rocks.

It’s hard to actually become a rock in the sea. It takes thousands of years and changing sea levels and just the right mix of chemical properties to form just the right kind of rocks. For us to become rocks though, that’s easier. We find our values, what we will be built with and then we fortify those values through conviction and faith.

Then we wade out into the ocean of life with plane crashes, unrest overseas, and murder trials and we become the safety beacons of life. We become those things that people see in the sea and cling to if they need help. As more people join us as rocks then our group will grow bigger and the sea smaller. The once taller waves will begin coming eye to eye with us and then only up to our middle. The once forceful wind will be blocked by others and we’ll block it for them. The once burning sun will warm our shoulders and crowns as we stand there and our numbers grow.

Eventually as we grow we won’t be rocks in the ocean anymore but a plateau or peninsula where the ground becomes smooth and life takes root, first in bushes then grasses and animals. We will have conquered one of the most inhospitable places with our resolve to be rocks.

We become these metaphorical rocks by being kind. We show respect to other people and we learn to understand others. We show sympathy and empathy. We care for other human beings at least as well as we care for the animals that share our homes. We stop judging. We stop hating. We stop assuming. Instead we help and offer kind words. If we do those things people will notice us and admire the way we stand amongst all the turmoil. They will see forces against us but will wish to join us and eventually they will.

It surprises me how often I tell my daughters to be the change they wish to see. Mostly this involves sharing toys but hopefully they get the idea that this means something bigger. We must be the change we wish to see. Life is hard to get right in the macro but in the moments we can do it. We can change the world one minute at a time and we do that by showing people in each moment.

In the movie Any Given Sunday the football coach played by Al Pacino gives a stirring speech where he tells his players:

You find out life’s this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game – life or football – the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch.

It doesn’t take a lot to change the world if you focus on the minutes and inches in your life.  Rocks can’t move but they change the sea by just the way they stand.  We can too, we can stand one way and the world will begin to change.  We are the rocks.


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