by Neal Lemery
(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 8/3/2022)
We are in the midst of change. We’ve always been in transition, growing and evolving, but these times seem even more energized and challenging. Big challenges are all around us: the post-pandemic world, climate change, economic, social and political uncertainties. How many of us work and get an education, how we socialize, how we look at our world and our own expectations are in flux. How do we deal with all that?
I often don’t handle change well. I like stability, predictability, the certainty that the demands of tomorrow will be comfortingly just like the demands of yesterday and today. But that’s not realistic, and we are all compelled to adapt and move into uncharted and often uncomfortable new territory. I’ll resist that, and want to stay in my rut, the old patterns and ways of navigating through life as comfortable as a pair of broken in shoes.
Yet, I see that much does need to change. Like most of us, I’m conflicted, wanting some things to change, but then not wanting change. I struggle with that continuing conflict, that debate with myself about what needs to change and what we need to go back to. After some inner conflict and self-talk, I mostly resolve those internal conflicts with myself by being a champion and voice for real reform, a recommitment to finding solutions, and doing things differently.
“It can be tempting to focus on all that is not working – the challenges, hurdles, and injustices. Good times can feel fleeting, like momentary distractions from the real work of life, which is more struggle and heartbreak than satisfaction and happiness.” — Dan Rather
I’m dissatisfied in leaving the role of change maker, of rabble rouser, of being the dissenting voice that advocates new thinking, to the politicians, the theologians, and those who simply seem to be just wanting to make a lot of noise. All of us should take on that role, and raise the voice of the reformer, the change maker. As citizens, isn’t that our duty? If I don’t become the actor, the instigator, the loud voice, then don’t I lose the right to complain?
“Change will not come if we wait for another person. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama.
My rant isn’t just about political reform, about rewriting public policy and revitalizing our institutions to be the change makers. The work, and arguably the most important work, lies within ourselves and in the relationships we build in our communities. The work is one on one, deeply personal, and demanding of our own energies and skills.
The changes you and I can make can start with a conversation at the post office, with the gas station attendant, with a small group activity where we are deep in a community-building event. It can be seeing a need in the community for something and then taking leadership to fill that need. There is so much talent and passion in our community and it often becomes unleashed by the work of a single person. Often, it’s not limited by money, but by our own willingness to step up and get something done.
The true power lies in the individual and the small group. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead.
Want to change things up? Want to make a difference? Want to revitalize your community? Then have those encounters at the post office, the grocery store, the community event. Gather a group for coffee and have those deep conversations, the ones where everyone walks away with a to do list and a motivation to make some changes. Ask the tough questions, and seek out the meaningful conversations. Organize, motivate, daydream. Learn the skills you need to work on solutions.
Educate yourself. Imagine what may seem is impossible and take on those first few tentative steps. Be persistent, stubborn, and focused. Be outspoken, and speak your truth. Surround yourself with like-minded people and be determined. Know that you are called to leadership, to be the instrument of real change.
You will make a difference. You will be the change you want to see in the world.