I do my share of complaining. I know I do. Some of it stems from just being human. But, some of it also stems from having an extreme sense of justice and belief in what is right and what is wrong.
Over the last couple of years, I have complained privately to family and friends about various issues. At the same time, I had washed my hands of doing anything about changing what I was complaining about. Mostly this was because I had tried to make positive change within our community, but to no avail. I volunteered hundreds of hours, served on committees, and spoke out as an advocate only to have most of my concerns and even my work go largely unnoticed or unaddressed. For years, it didn’t matter, I was trying to make a difference – that was what was most important to me. But, one can only persist so long. So, a couple of years ago, I made the conscious decision to stop trying to change what I thought was wrong in “the system.” I had come to the conclusion it wasn’t possible to be an agent of change. I thought I could just sit back and go with the flow as most people do. But, I was wrong. My lack of action did not stop my attention to the issues at hand or my complaining. I was still consulted by others experiencing similar concerns on how to “handle things.” While I stopped doing, I did not stop complaining and to make matters worse, started complaining about those who were also talking (complaining) but not doing (just like I was). Do you see the irony here?
This began to form a chasm in me, a widening, deeper crevice between what I was saying needed correcting and my lack of any attempts at corrective actions. Of late, I started to feel hypocritical, believing I had no right to complain if I was not willing to do something about it.
And, just about the same time the hypocritical feeling was recognizable, an opportunity presented itself for me to take action…..for me to BE THE CHANGE! I’ve heard that this quote, usually attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, was not exactly what he said, but rather came from the context of some of his writings. In either case, whether he said it or not, it is a wise and profound statement. We must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Yes. We must.
When I look at my work in environmental education, I have been a role model for this statement. For fifteen years, I have talked about Monarchs to most anyone that will listen, have planted habitat at both my home, in my community at schools, and encouraged others to plant milkweed and nectar plants by spreading my message at conferences and by speaking to community groups and classrooms. Yes, when it comes to the environment, I believe I can say I am trying to “Be the change.” I am “walking my talk” when it comes to environmental stewardship and I do believe we ALL have to work to save the our planet earth.
But, when I look at my long history of being involved in education, the story is somewhat different. While I started out trying to “Be the change” by contributing to local systems by volunteering, forming student groups, and advocating for reform, I got tired. After all, I had been at it for over 15 years. I had a right to be tired. Didn’t I? Some of what I did felt like I was “fighting an uphill battle”, if you will excuse the use of the pun. This was especially true of student advocacy. So, I did what most do when you become tired. I stopped. I stopped advocating, I stopped trying, I stopped helping. But, I did not stop complaining. This was wrong. And, now I feel it to be so.
If one complains, one must take action to correct the areas where one takes issue. If you do not act, you do not have right to complain. So, as I alluded to above, an opportunity has presented itself for me to return to what I know is right and “Be the Change.” I have realized that I cannot sit back and assume someone else will lead the charge. I cannot.
I have been surprisingly calm and happy since deciding to try to “Be the Change.” Yes, I am still complaining. But, at the base of those complaints are concerns. The concerns affect many in our community. We need change. And, I am willing to be it. I will be happier knowing I tried.
The only down side to all this is that I will have to put my “educational” posts on hold for a quite while if my quest to be an agent of change succeeds. I have applied for an interim, vacant seat on the Board of Education for our school district. Wish me luck as I live what I believe: Be The Change!