People love to quote Gandhi, especially his advice to “be the change you wish to see.” Maybe because it’s easier to quote him than to actually take his advice. Rather than wax poetic on Gandhi’s (quite substantial) achievements, I want to figure out how I can be the change I wish to see in the world. While in Holland, Michigan working on my documentary project, I got a front row seat to justice in progress. Here’s what I learned on how we can be the change we wish to see.
Do What Needs to Be Done
Crucial to “Being the change you wish to see” is identifying (correctly) the change which needs to happen. What needs to happen in the world or your community or your life which you are suited to address? Gandhi imagined a free India; at Hope College, students dream of a safe and inclusive community for LGBTQ people. What can you identify that needs to change and what needs to be done to make that happen?
Think of ways you can invite others to join you in creating this new reality. This is an opportunity for you to share something special with them and give them the opportunity to be part of something important–don’t fool yourself into believing that you are a burden. At Hope, the students and alumni setup camp on campus for a full twenty-four hours and invited anyone to join them in creating an inclusive community. They even invited the security guard who was posted to monitor them!
Embody A New Reality
When you have achieved your goals, what will the world (or you community, or your home, or your life) look like? Create that now. It’s never a matter of the ends justifying the means: the means are an end in themselves. Thoughts and beliefs are important and also we are people with bodies–and our bodies matter too! Use your body to Be In, or to paint, or to exercise, or to create, or to protect.
Don’t Wait for Permission
If you wait for permission, you will wait forever. The status quo is a difficult thing to move and so you’ll need to move it yourself. You don’t need permission to start your own business on the side, or to make your spare bed available for folks who need it, or to begin educating yourself. You don’t even need permission to host a 24-hour in a park and sleep there over night! The morning of the Be In, administrators at Hope College told organizers they were not allowed to congregate. Well, the students, and alumni, and faculty, and community members showed up anyway. They even slept in the park over night! I can’t guarantee this won’t get you in to trouble, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared for any consequences that might come your way. Give yourself permission to be the change you’re looking for–that is what’s most important!
Do Something Now
Don’t wait for permission and don’t wait for someone else to organize and don’t wait for the change to come. Do something now. Balance your check book or throw away your bike lock or plant a community garden or read a book or attend a Be In. Do something right now.
I amazed by the all ways change, hope, and justice spring forth around me. The movement at Hope College is certainly an excellent example and I know it’s one of many. What are some ways you are being the change you wish to see? Or how might you begin that today? Or what are some of your inspirations? Let’s do this!
If you enjoyed this piece, you may also enjoy my previous piece “My Hope For Hope”.