Comedian Mike Birbiglia tells a story of a celebrity golf tournament that he attended once. As he was waiting for the event to begin, he started chatting with some of the other players. One of them said, “I wonder who our celebrity is going to be?” And Mike thought excitedly, “Yeah, I wonder who our celebrity is going to be?” And then he quickly realized, to his great disappointment, “Oh, $#!%, I’m the celebrity here. I’m the one we’ve been waiting for!”
Former New Dream director Wendy Philleo used to think of this story when she found herself complaining about something in the world that needed to be changed. She would think, for example, “WHY is Charlottesville not a better bike city? Somebody should really make some better bike paths here.” Or, “Someone needs to do something about gun violence... stop global warming... fix our children’s schools... etc... etc.” And then she would hear Mike’s voice saying, “Oh, $#!%, I’m the one we’ve been waiting for.”
Most of us are familiar with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi. We see it printed on tote bags and coffee mugs. Valedictorians find ways to incorporate it into graduation speeches. But what does it really mean to “be” the change? How can we be the change when we’ve got to get our kids to school, work all day, make dinner, do laundry, exercise, and so on? The idea that we’re also responsible for making big changes to improve the world at large can seem overwhelming. It’s so much easier to complain and hope that someone else steps in to do the job.
We often assume that, because we may not be able to do all that we would like, it’s not worth doing anything at all. And that, I believe, is a great mistake. Sometimes the little things can have a tremendous impact. Beyond the changes we can make in our lifestyles from biking more, wasting less, and growing our own food, we can take steps outside our homes to have greater influence.
Maybe Wendy didn’t have time to approach her city council and volunteer to chair a committee on improving bike paths. But she realized that she could set aside 30 minutes and come up with a list of people in her community who are passionate about biking, and send out a group email asking if anyone would be interested in working with her. That group of people may get the job done or at least get the ball rolling—and it all starts with one email.
If the issue that’s on your mind is one that really excites you and makes you come alive, then the truth is, once you commit to being involved, you can find the time. Maybe watch less TV or spend less time on the Internet for one week, and instead devote yourself to coming up with ways that you can be the change that everyone is waiting for.
And if we can find others who feel similarly, imagine how much we could accomplish. As individuals, we don’t have unlimited time, money, or knowledge—but together, we can multiply our impact tremendously.
At New Dream, our mission is to help you be the change that you wish to see in your home, in your community, and in the world. Whether you want to raise thousands of dollars for local charities in your town, help a refugee family, start a tool or toy or seed library, carve out space for children to be children and not merely consumers, or any one of our other many ideas—big and small—for building community, increasing well-being, and reducing waste, our mission is to help you in any way that we can.
Gandhi also said that “[t]he difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.” At New Dream, our aim is to provide not only the resources and skills needed to be a part of the solution, but also the inspiration to do what we are indeed truly capable of doing. Join us as we commit to being the change that we wish to see in our world today.
Edna Rienzi is Director of Programs at New Dream.