I can choose to do nothing, to embrace the status quo, and not examine my own thinking, my own, old ways of doing things. Or, I can be the wrecking ball, the sour voice of discontent when new ideas and new ways come my way.
Or, I can be the builder, using the solid, time tested materials and ways that have worked in the past, and incorporate the new energies, the new ideas, and make things better.
“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” — attributed to Eldridge Cleaver.
My community is going through a lot of change now. Our downtown traffic pattern is being completely revamped, and the streets and sidewalks are torn up. The usual routines and paths are disrupted, and our city bird is the construction crane. Construction worker orange and raincoats is the new fashion statement.
I can curse the detours, the mud, the mess, or I can look through that and see the beginnings of the new town plaza, the spots for new street trees, and the better traffic flow that will come from this.
I choose to build, to make stronger, to help others on their own path, so that they can achieve their dreams, and to find their path a little easier.
And, I can join the voices embracing the new energies, the vitality of a prosperous, active downtown area. I can be part of that, and be a builder.
I’ve done my share of whining about what is lacking in my home town. But, I am choosing to be a builder, not a destroyer, a part of the solutions and not part of the problems.
To that end, I’ve helped organize and host a monthly open mic downtown on Saturday nights, providing a performance space for writers, musicians, and other artists. Part of that work is joining others to bring gallery space for artists downtown, and promote the creative arts.
I’m a master gardener and have helped educate myself and others on sustainable gardening and educating the community about being better stewards of the land. I’ve nurtured and planted community garden space.
I’m working on a foundation to help fund improvements to local parks and recreation spaces.
And, I’ve spoken out in favor of our community library, and worked on the campaign to renew its local funding.
I’m not alone. This community is on the move, and change is on the wind. New ideas, new projects are everywhere. Nearly seventy of my neighbors just returned from a ten day trip to China, having new experiences, learning about another part of the world, and coming home with new ideas and a new international perspective.
Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, which encourages us to share an inspirational poem. Here’s my choice:
The Bridge Builder
BY WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE (1860-1934)
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Anthology of Verse, 1931
Change is all around me. I could choose to be the stick in the mud, struggling against the tide, holding fast to the old, the familiar. Or, I could be part of the change, going with the flow, being one with the river; and embracing the change.
The old ways can be comforting, certainly familiar. Yet, will they be successful, meaningful as the world, as my community changes?
“The civilization that is able to survive is the one that is able to adapt to the changing physical, social, political, moral and spiritual environment in which is finds itself.” (Leon Megginson, 1963. quoted by Thomas Friedman, Thank You For Being Late, 2016, p. 298)
I can be the bridge builder, the advocate for a better community, or I can be the stick in the mud, and let the tide move against me, leaving me rotting in the muck of the past, as the world passes by.
—Neal Lemery, 4/27/2017