"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-Tzu
Those of us born in 1955 turn 55 this year, as I did last week. My cohort and I are old enough to have seen enormous changes in our five-and-a-half decades, from the moon walk (the real one, not the dance step) to Civil Rights, from medical cures to pocket-sized computers. As much as I marvel at these advances, I am equally dismayed at how far we have to go on the most basic of challenges, including massive worldwide poverty, pervasive misogyny in too many countries, and mass murder of ethnic groups. Happy birthday to me.
When I was younger, I assumed I would see these atrocities solved in my lifetime. While in our late teens and early twenties, our entire adult lives were ahead of us. In hindsight, I see how naive and self-centered I was to assume that I was born during a new Enlightenment period when world peace would prevail and evil would become passe. My only decision was whether to work on a macro or micro scale, which I resolved by switching back and forth.
It wasn't until my fifties when I finally admitted to myself that all the people of the world were not going to join hands in a rousing rendition of "kumbaya" in my lifetime, if ever. What seems so simple to me, my "live and let live" credo, is, in fact, more difficult to achieve than building the space station or mapping the human genome. (See "LVLETLV" post, December 26, 2008.) This is a huge disappointment for we, activists, who came of age in the 1960's and '70's.
Shrugging my shoulders and giving up is not in my DNA. I have reconciled myself to doing my part in this world knowing that I will not see final outcomes. I continue my volunteer work with CARE (www.care.org) because it is abhorrent to me the degree to which the poorest women and girls suffer. I continue my political activities, including marching, emailing, phoning, and organizing. I continue to change the television channel when a wonderful but very sad commercial airs asking for donations to save neglected and abused animals, but just ten days ago I adopted an eight pound rescue miniature poodle. I continue to do pro bono coaching to help financially strapped single parents of very sick children because, having been through it, I can only imagine how difficult it is to endure a child's serious illness without a partner and resources (www.andreriveroflife.org).
I am not changing the world on the scale I thought I would forty years ago, but I am doing my best, one person or one animal at a time. Imagine the results if we each take on one cause, large or small. No single person can fix the world, but together we can make obvious improvements.
We need to go a thousand miles, and we'll do it a single step at a time. Will you walk with me?