The Complex Power of Simple Acts


Today, Brussels is locked down in fear of terror attacks.  Anonymous has warned that ISIS is threatening attacks all around the world tomorrow.  Three suicide bombers in Cameroon killed possibly as many as ten people.  People are fleeing horrors all over in mass waves.  And these things really aren’t “trending” on social media.

I ranted the other day about the ridiculous red cup thing because the effectiveness of such petty things at getting attention made me angry.  I took my flattened red cup out to the woods and shot it a few times.  That was fun, but it didn’t change the fact that we are still so divided and distracted.  It seems obvious that dividing and distracting us gets easier and easier as we turn more to our devices for our interactions with others, with the world.  We are turning increasingly away from face to face interactions and I’m not alone in thinking that it is stealing our empathy.

Yesterday, while driving along a busy street, I noticed a woman jogging along the road, waving at every car that passed her.  This is a somewhat small community, so it was conceivable that she knew the drivers of the cars ahead of me, but there was something odd about her wave that caught my attention.  So, I kept an eye on her as our paths converged.  She was wearing a white t shirt, and when I got close, I saw that she had written “I welcome refugees” on the shirt with a black marker.  I really wanted to turn around and pull over to talk with her but unfortunately I didn’t have time.

As I continued along with my day, I kept thinking about her.  And it hit me how such a simple act could have such a powerful effect on me.  She was going jogging anyway, and she decided she was going to use the run as a chance to make a statement.  She was showing publicly her support for refugees.  What she showed me was compassion, she reminded me of the importance of holding onto our humanity, in spite of our fear.  A simple form of activism as part of her everyday life set off a complex series of thoughts and feelings in me.

I think there are countless people going along with their daily lives, raging silently inside about all the mess and hurt in the world, and feeling a little alone in this distracted society.  But what might happen if someone randomly jogs by with a message written in black marker on their shirt, a simple message that shows that there is someone else out there who feels the same way?  Maybe people would begin to realize they aren’t alone.  Maybe more people would start jogging along too.

It doesn’t always have to be picket lines, sit-ins, stand-ins, die-ins, marches, chaining ourselves to things.  Those are all powerful, important, and successful at getting at least brief attention to an issue.  But what if we find more ways to incorporate activism into our everyday lives?  What if we take a little risk and show others what we believe?  I believe this could bring people together.  I believe it can start conversations.  I believe it can start a wave of awareness, and change.  I believe it can start a revolution.

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