A Humble Path to Changing the World
As a passionate undergraduate recently coming into an awareness of global inequalities and injustices, I was determined to change the world. I joined every alliance and club I could find—Amnesty International, RUCKUS Society, Food Not Bombs, Greenpeace. I canvassed, campaigned, wrote letters and participated in direct action. I had a group of activist friends and we stirred one another’s passions. Together, we felt truly empowered to change the world. Our generation would succeed where others had failed; we had to. For my senior project I traveled to Mexico to volunteer at an orphanage and initiate a community garden project. While I had been to Mexico before as part of a volunteer group building houses in poor communities, this time I was on my own. I arrived in Chiapas with my planting books and hundreds of gardening activities for children, only to find there were no children over the age of three at the orphanage. I asked the woman who ran the institution if we could start a community program, enlisting children from the area to participate. “That will be difficult,” she told me, “children around here expect to get paid to work.” This was my first personal experience with the realities of cross-cultural communication and efforts towards social change. The challenge, I realized, would be significant. I would have to enter as a humble learner ready to listen and share, and not just be blindly driven by my enthusiasm. Enthusiastic ignorance is still ignorance. I didn’t have time to process any of this, because graduation was upon me, and our activist group dispersed. I was left trying to find work, pay rent, and manage student loans. For years I worked three jobs and my visions of changing the world were relegated to an occasional free moment. I still believed it was possible, but I was beginning to think only those with the leisure of luxury time could afford to do so. Intellectually I knew this wasn’t true, since many of those people who changed history came from humble beginnings, but I couldn’t fathom how.
As a teacher I make a difference in small, humble ways. I see a new generation of young people just awakening to the state of the world. They believe they will be the ones to make a difference, and so do I. My students inspire me even though I know their enthusiasm may wane, as mine did, or even be misdirected, as mine was. As a more seasoned traveler, it is my job to remind them: In order to succeed in changing the world, we must all find our own small way to make a difference. From there, we can become a powerful mosaic of voices. I am here at PulseWire as a humble listener and a passionate speaker, because alone, our flames may be too small to dispel the darkness, but together, we are the blazing light that diffuses ignorance.