When I was in high school, a petition was circling the school. We were outraged about something (I don't remember what, of course) and I'll never forget the principal's response. He wasn't mad. He was calm. But he gathered the high school together and he said: "Protests and petitions won't get you anywhere. Sure, it feels like you're doing something, but the best way to make change is not to sign your name on a paper. It's to stand up and do something. Have that hard conversation. Go directly to the person that has wronged you, and talk to them."
I've never forgotten those words.
The best way to make change is to stand up and do something.
I don't want to be whiner or a complainer. I don't want to be a protester or a petition-signer. I want to get up out of my chair, stand up, and make the small change that I can make.
I remember another day in high school. We were all loudly talking and moving as a herd from the cafeteria through the hallway to our next class. A bulky hand-painted banner had fallen from the concrete block walls and was now being trampled by the entire student body. We didn't even care. We just kept following the crowd. That day, my principal's face was red and angry. He stopped us right there in the hallway. "Didn't you guys see this?? How can you all keep walking and trampling over this poster??" We were dumbfounded. We really didn't see it. And if we did, we simply didn't care. We had our own agenda and our own interests in mind. We kept following the person in front of us, without a thought of the artwork that we were destroying under our feet.
Red-faced, the principal said, "All it takes is ONE person. One person to stop and move the poster so it won't get trampled."
I've never forgotten that, either. I have the power to get out of the crowd, take another look and do something. I can speak up, I can grab what is being trampled and I can get it out of harm’s way.
You don't have to march and protest and sign the petition. Sure, it feels good to be part of the crowd. Something bigger than yourself. But the biggest impact of all comes when just you--just one person--takes a stand and starts that hard conversation. Confronts injustice. Picks up that which is being trampled.
Acting bravely on your own is the most powerful action you can take.
My favorite quote says: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Imagine the impact if we each did just that.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!