“Alone, we can do so little. Together, we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller
Have you ever seen or heard of children playing with a parachute, each one holding on to its edge, using their shared effort to toss colorful balls into the air? Not everyone has, so it’s a fun image to conjure up. It’s also a great metaphor for democracy.
The power of one
On a good day, the average person might have the physical energy to put in four to eight productive hours in a day. Making a call, sending a donation, showing up to support—all of these one person can do—inside those hours.
However, when it comes to changing the world, this the equivalent of a small corner of that colorful parachute to keep one or two balls in the air. Certainly noble, if limited.
In fact, that was me two years ago, nine months into writing the Checklist all by myself. Despite doing my darndest to create a meaningful, well-researched publication, I was limited by the amount of time I had. Some weeks, I “invented” time by working past 1 or 2 AM to publish on time. As though the fabric was slipping through my hands and balls bouncing away from me, I struggled with the feeling that it was never enough.
Sometimes on those late nights, I’d have to stop writing for whole minutes because emotions like grief, horror, and sadness swelled up in reaction to the news. At first I was proud of doing everything all by myself, but I grew weary of carrying it alone. I didn’t like that it was making me ugly, jaded, and cynical.
Alone I could do so little.
The power we have together
When kiddos put their hearts into flapping their small part of the parachute, the ripples go everywhere, more balls stay airborne, and everyone smiles. Together they do this.
The same is true with our democracy. Your two hours, and my ten, and our neighbor’s one, plus thousands and thousands of others is what moves the needle.
As you read this, the AoCC volunteer team is preparing to take on full responsibility of research, production, and sharing while I’m on pilgrimage. All 51 of them around the circle. What was a literal impossibility two years ago is now a reality. Each one is taking a small part and doing it better than I ever did alone.
And just think—AoCC is only one part of a much larger movement nationally and globally! It’s a marvel to think of how many are working for the same goals together. That’s how change happens.
With all of us holding on, together we can bear much more. A Swedish proverb says, “Shared joy is doubled joy; shared sorrow is halved.” This is why we thank people and share good news in the AoC Checklist.
Rather than fret in isolation, we bear the weight together of the hate crime or the perpetual violence in communities who haven’t yet had the relief of justice. When things are really hard, we can all duck underneath the fabric together for a huddle and regroup. Knowing we’re in it together uplifts, and our successes can amplify that feeling.
We endure. Together.
Grab some fabric
You’re invited to gather around the parachute circle. As summer season comes to an end, and our thoughts turn to November elections and 2020, I invite you to be curious about your current grip on our parachute of conscience.
- Notice if you’ve let go a bit, but want to hang on again.
- How would you feel to acknowledge those around the perimeter and recall that you’re in good company?
- How ready are you to lift your part to keep things bouncing forward?
There is a place for you in this circle of democracy. Come, take up a corner and marvel at how much we can do together.
Thank you for your letter. I’m not active in your group, but am in others. We all feel this same burden and despair. I will be sharing your message, maybe we’ll both get more hands holding the parachute.
Having the unspoken trust in others to be handling the ball, the parachute and rhythm is meaningful in building a strong community. Everyone wants to belong with others that watch their back. A nice reminder that doing what we can, when we can, is all that I’m asked to do in order to make a difference. Thank you.