A change of pace today: I’m going to tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a smallish community located in a large and cold kingdom. The land was suffering from a great plague that, like many sicknesses before it, shuttered people in their homes, caused many to die, and many more to suffer.
In this community, the people who remained blessedly unaffected by the plague recognized that there was suffering, especially amongst those who, even in the best of times, didn’t have much on which to sup. So they sent messages by special courier to one another, and plotted and schemed for weeks to gather the spare resources of the kingdom. And they came together — in their thousands, as much as was safe to do so during a plague — and gave those resources to those in need. Yes, just handed them over, no conditions, no tributes required. It was a joy to see, and everyone celebrated the great day. The effort was even commemorated in artwork across the land.
Lovely fairy tale? Utopian dream?
In fact, it’s a true story.
The plague, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic, and the community in question is Chatham-Kent, Canada. On May 16th, 2020, some 5000+ volunteers, following physical distancing protocols and wearing masks, collected more than at least 678,200 pounds of food, donated by residents (who had been asked to leave a non-perishable item on their porch or front step for collection). The goal was to restock local food banks, because donations had tailed off due to the lockdown. You can read about it here, and search for more info by looking up the community name and “May 16th Miracle.” The whole thing was organized in about three weeks, via video calls, texts, and emails. Local artists documented the effort, and also worked to provide inspiration throughout the lockdown.
And this is just one of many similar stories to come out of the pandemic.
I tell you this because right about now, after weeks of depressing news headlines and even more depressing comments on social media, I bet you can use the lift.
But even more important, I figure you can use the inspiration.
You see, problems like pandemics, climate change, homelessness and poverty all seem intractable. Too big to contemplate, much less solve, right? Especially if you’re just one person.
Except, the May 16th Miracle was just one person’s idea.
And the people who helped were just ordinary people.
This wasn’t organized by government. Or a church. Or any kind of organization, really.
It was just a bunch of people who saw a pressing need and decided they were gonna be the ones to fix it. And they got together and did so.
Fred Rogers, of PBS children’s programming fame, once said that in a crisis, it was important to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
He was right. There are always people who are helping, even in the worst of times. Many, many more than the media or those awful clickbait websites would have you believe.
Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
She was also right. You don’t need everyone on board. You just need enough.
Believe them both. And then have a think about what you might do to make a fairy tale come true in your community.
Because I believe you can.