Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Bother?

So many considerations go into projects like the Mitten Project – What will it cost? Who will benefit? Will anyone benefit? Will it eat up my precious time? Will it be worth the effort? What if no one supports my efforts? Why bother? They say that the devil is in the details but I say that it’s so easy to let details blur your vision, dull your intentions, stop your progress.

I meet so many good hearted individuals over the course of a month – people with ideas, hopes, the desire to ‘do good’ within our community. These people inspire me and push me to reconsider my plans, my abilities and my opportunities. People around us have great ideas every day, thinking up ways to help their neighbours, their friends, stray animals, the homeless, themselves but something happens in transition from their heads to their hands. The once great idea dissipates into debates of ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ Uncertainty slips into doubt; doubt slips into inaction which slips into antipathy. If we’re not careful, antipathy slips into hopelessness. The idea that inspired us now taunts us and reminds us that we let our own doubts build a wall between us and the action that we needed to take. As doubts pile up, the wall grows taller, overshadowing what once seemed like an opportunity. We see the wall, the risk, the fear - not the intention that started it all.

I started the Mitten Project with little doubt. The old me would have worried about that fact – there were no building materials for my own wall of inaction. Shouldn't I doubt...fear…stop myself? Why not? Probably because the acts needed to build the project were so small, so simple – knit 1 pair of mittens and share them with someone. It was so easy to see that one pair was simple to complete – why not another pair? Easy enough – put a good movie on or slap a CD into the stereo and pick up the sticks and string. Mittens were knit while laughing with friends, crying over loss, singing along at concerts, over tea, surrounded by love and while alone. In private and in public, I just knit. That one pair turned into 40 something pairs in the course of a few months. Like the snowball that becomes the snow fort, these mittens multiplied before my eyes, leaving little time to doubt or question. The process took over and set the priorities – just knit one more pair.

A simple pair of mittens provided me the chance to change my possibilities – a life without doubt achieved by listening to my heart, knowing with certainty what needed to be done and just doing it. By shutting off the voices of doubt that sing my personal background music, I was able to complete the first leg of this journey. Throughout the quiet knitting time, I envisioned happy children with warm hands, playing in the snow alongside every other child in the playground. An inclusive playground community where no one stood alone, shivering, left out of the game. The voices of this imaginary playground were loud enough to drown out the voices of doubt and their energy was enough to help spur me on to fill a basket with pairs and pairs of warm mittens.

What would you do to change your community for the better if money, time and ability were not a problem? How would you make a difference? Improve the lives all around you (and your own, in the process)? What voices strengthen your resolve or stop your action? What is standing in your way, blocking you from sharing your unique gift? What materials are you using to build your own wall of inactivity? I know what I used to build my old walls with. I know what little action it took to tear down those walls. Small acts make the difference. Like every journey beginning with a single step, a project grows with single small acts, the sum of which builds the change that is needed. Imagine what we could do together?

As Gandhi told us, action expresses priorities. Express your own priorities every day by doing one small act that shares your gift with others. Listen to the voices of your own imaginary playground and let them drown out your doubts. Like the man said, an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching - I’d better get knitting.

In the meantime, take a few minutes to visit and listen to the voices of change that surround us. Be the change that you want to see in the world; support others as they strive to make this playground inclusive. Do it today.

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