Some people shout their politics from the rooftops, waving banners and flags in the face of humanity going about its daily business.
I admire these people for standing up publicly, pinning their causes to their chests and making a public nuisance of themselves- that is, getting in other people’s way, forcing them to move out of their safe, comfortable routine and take notice of the activists blocking their way to their daily fix of coffee, croissant or Cruiser- because such protesters can loudly and proudly effect large-scale change.
I have to admit, I am not one of these people. I consider myself a quiet activist, a change merchant on a different scale. Rather than looking at the Big Picture of Global Politics and what I can change by participating in a thousand-strong rally or sit-in, I look at my Immediate Surroundings and what I can change right now, with every small decision I make throughout my day.
I also admit that sometimes I guard myself against fatigue rather than put myself on the frontline of making a positive contribution to the world, right now in this instance. I justify this as protecting myself for the long haul, extending my longevity by taking the time to heal when I am so burnt out and exhausted I cannot make effective contributions anyway. What use is a crusader who lacks the strength to raise their pen or sword?
Maybe this is construed as lazy, copping out or otherwise more convenient to me than to others, but it’s what I feel I can contribute on any given day, to make the world a better place … and I do consider it makes a positive change to others.
Teaching is a profession without immediate rewards. It’s often only years later, when my adolescent charges have grown up and become independent, that a chance meeting will reveal the impact I’ve had on their young lives: “You were kind to me when my grandparent/parent/sibling/cousin died, when I felt alone”; “You asked me where my Safe Space was when I disclosed I was depressed, so I knew you understood what I was going through”; “I felt like every time I saw you at the canteen I offloaded onto you, yet you always asked me how I was doing and encouraged me to answer from my heart”; “You gave me the space to talk to an adult and that helped me sort out my feelings, which meant they didn’t spiral out of control”.
As a career teacher I’m used to working in an environment with delayed feedback. I attribute this with influencing my ability to see action and progress where others may not.
Sometimes I wonder how outsiders perceive the way I live, particularly in reference to positive action. Sometimes I feel I lead a small life. That my day after day at work, early to bed as I am tired after the emotional energy spent with challenging students and then my commute, doesn’t amount to much.
I choose to think that my Modus operandi, however, makes a huge contribution to the hundreds of students I have daily contact with, thousands over the years. I might not see the rewards on a daily basis, and they may not be as obvious and grand-scale as stopping a coal mine or taking a whole town off the grid with sustainable, renewable energy … but they are real, nevertheless. Just less tangible.
I’m in the business of providing others with the skills, tools and knowledge they need to contribute proactively to the wider world, and their ability to do this in adulthood is my reward. So every “How are you? How are things going for you?” of mine, that boosts a student’s self-worth and ability to ask someone else the same questions with the genuine will, and time, to listen; every time someone remembers something I’ve said or done for them and chooses to act with more integrity and compassion than they otherwise would have done, in reflection of my response; every time someone in my sphere of influence chooses kind because that is what they have received from me … a widening circle of positive influence is created, and that is powerful.
My daily actions and contributions may be- or seem- small-scale, but the ripple effects that’s started from my small actions becomes bigger and wider, affecting more people, more lives, more positively. That’s something worthy to own!
… and the best part about this is … this power is within reach of all of us! Even if we’re temporarily blinded by fatigue, feeling pushed down and trampled on, it’s still there and still in reach: we just need to alter our focus to make it clear again.
Every action and reaction is a choice we make as individuals, and we all have the freedom to choose for good. Even those within restricted settings can still influence their thoughts and consequently behaviours. The ripple effect is never ending … and we can all be part of the positive influence.