“The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.”
The first of January is always notable for kicking off the new year. It's a time to contemplate the changes we want (or need) to make, and many people see this day as an opportunity to resolve to follow through on these changes.
For me, the first of February has become the better time to reflect due to the historical significance of this day. February One has special meaning to so many people, but specifically for those of us in Greensboro, NC --the city I've called home for 30+ years.
If you are not aware, February 1, 1960 was the date that 4 African-American college students sat at a Woolworth's store lunch counter in downtown Greensboro and forever changed the course of history. Here are two great links to the details:
From the Smithsonian Institution: "Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)"
These 4 young men sparked a civil rights movement known as "The Sit-ins" which spread across the nation and forced the country to evaluate our national ideals of "life, liberty and justice for all." February 1, 1960 also became the date by which these four men would forever measure their lives.
So what do I reflect upon on February One of each year?
I do think about "The Four": Did these unlikely heroes ever imagine how momentous their actions would become? That so few would bring power to so many?
I think about their courage: I wonder whether I would've publicly acknowledged the injustice of the day and then, would I ever have had the courage to sit down with them?
I think about change: Why does change seem so daunting & impossible in the moment and yet so necessary & inevitable in hindsight?
I think about how I will measure myself...
In reference to MacLeod's quote at the start of this blog entry, not everyone chooses the difficult path of combatting the status quo. I can honestly say that I have never been one with that desire to change the world. Not that I didn't want a better world, or wouldn't love to be seen as a hero, but quite honestly I just never had the courage of conviction and inner strength necessary to choose to embark upon these epic journeys.
Or perhaps it's as plain as this: I was simply too comfortable in my life to upset my own apple cart.
The older I get, the more shame I feel in realizing this about myself. I understand now that I owe a huge debt of gratitude for all the extraordinary people who stand up against the world so that I may take my current quality of life for granted.
I also realize that I still have many opportunities to bring change to the world. I can choose to be more like "The Greensboro Four " by leaving my comfort zone in hopes of making a difference in a lasting way. On days like today, February One, I rededicate myself to projects that are important to me and yet 'bigger than me'... for no better reason than it's my responsibility to contribute. I have no grand delusions of self-importance, but rather I see this as an opportunity to send a humble "time-machine thank-you" to historic heroes... by paying tribute to their efforts through actions I might normally resist.
I am in no way comparing my current endeavors with the magnitude of our history's heroes. I am saying that I will vow to Get Back UP to a better life... and I will choose to extend my hand to others to in the process.
If I have learned anything from The Greensboro Four it's this: We are all responsible for our actions in this world, and we are equally responsible for our inactions.
If you're ever in Greensboro, let's do lunch: http://www.sitinmovement.org/