On Being the Change You Want to See
Dan and I went to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, where I could stick to my healthy eating plan and have fajita grilled veggies and shrimp and he could have…well, whatever he wanted. He’s not the one needing to lose weight. We sat at a booth next to two women in an animated and boisterous conversation, and we couldn’t help but hear what they were saying, as it felt like they were sitting in the booth with us. It made me sad, as for the twenty-five minutes they were there, every word spoken was a catty and cruel comment about other people. Dan, always Zen, told me to ignore them, let it go. I wish I could have- I’m not quite as evolved as my husband- but it did make me think.
I believe that everyone with whom we cross paths is a teacher of some sort for us, my lunch companions, no less. I thought about how important what we say and do is, with the doing being much more important than the saying. We can say we are good people, we go to church, we contribute to a charity, we rescue animals,..but if the words and actions coming from us promote hate in any form, are we truly good people? Words can wound far worse than physical blows, and I think many of us- myself included- forget how powerful words can be. Gossip is such a poison, filling our minds with negativity. I am so very far from perfect, and this made me think about what someone who doesn’t know me would think if they heard me talking at a restaurant- would they cringe, or would they be uplifted by what I said?
Ghandi’s quote is one I hear in yoga class a lot, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and it always speaks to me. One person truly can make a difference. It can start in the smallest of ways; showing kindness in words and deeds, letting go of gossip, actively support a cause you believe in. Never think that even smiling at a person on the street doesn’t make a difference to them. I don’t mean to sound all Pollyanna, but I have faith in the power of one, of one person choosing to be better every day than they were the day before. So much of society has become completely self-centered, putting a blind eye to the serious issues facing our people and our planet, only focused on their needs, their greed. It’s a recipe for disaster.
I can make a difference in my own way, even if those ways are small. I will think about the words that I choose to speak, post uplifting things on Facebook, do my best to encourage my students, my family, and my friends. I will take photos of the beautiful things I see in nature, and hold on to the importance of animals in my life. Even simple things, like holding a door open for someone, taking the time to talk to an elderly person who otherwise might be ignored…every single one of us can do something small, that when added together can have an amazing impact on our communities and our world. I try to remember that the ocean is made up of drops of water…that is pretty powerful stuff.
Dan inspires me in this all the time. He is constantly going out of his way with a smile on his face to help people- the harried woman at the grocery store trying to push a cart and deal with children, an elderly yoga student in the hospital who needs a cheery visit, a homeless person on the street, who, if Dan doesn’t have cash on hand, hugs so that they feel like a worthy person. It goes on and on. Dan is human, too, and we all get stressed and cranky at times, but I appreciate that the intent to do good things is always there, front and center, followed by the action to do good…the most important part. My mother was always doing kind things for others, and even in the hours before she passed, she was making nurses smile and thinking of others. She set a wonderful example for me to follow.
I am fifty-two, and still feel like I have training wheels as a human being. I want to do better, to learn and grow until my last breath. My clarinet mentor, Kal Opperman, had a saying that I share with every student I teach; “Practice and hope, but never HOPE more than you practice.” While he was talking about the clarinet primarily, it rings true for life as well. To be a better person, we have to work at it every single day, with every single action, not just hope that we’ll be better someday. What a beautiful world we live in, and we are filled with such power…I want to use my power to make it a better place, even if I stumble and fall sometimes.