How often have you found changing something in your life to be difficult or impossible? And before you can even want personal change, there must be some level of admission that you are responsible for your present reality. You then need to have hope for something better and be willing to demand change in yourself. To accept that tension and resistance and struggle are essential components of change.
I experienced all of these stages when I stopped smoking some 13 years ago or in my never-ending battle to live a healthier life, and still have fun. These stages of change are true for our personal lives and also true in communities and our country and the world. It is all a part of the physical laws of the universe. You try to move a heavy object and you feel the resistance in your body. You try to change a way of doing or being in your life and you feel resistance, sometimes in the form of fear, in your head and your heart. You try to change government to care about children or treat people with disabilities with support and respect and you encounter resistance.
The key is an understanding, an appreciation of power in your personal life as well as in the public and private sectors of our communities. Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist and Leader, says it best..
“Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will…The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those who they oppress.” In our personal lives, we are often our own tyrants. In our communities, the tyrants can be government or business or those who promote only ego or greed.
In a recent campaign for early childhood education in Philadelphia, the resistance came in the form of a claim that there were no resources available. The Philadelphia School District chose to save money on the backs of our youngest children. The resistance came from city government recognizing the importance of quality, early childhood education and but not being willing to put their actions behind their words. The resistance came from the egos of those who were more worried about who would get credit. But, once the community group promoting this change made their demands known, the process of shifting power began. It was not easy; it never is. People wanted to give up. At first, city government said no. But, as the demand grew, change was on the horizon.
And so it is in fighting for better housing, in pushing for immigration reform, in trying to win more resources for public education, in making sure we eliminate hunger, in really bridging the digital divide. Past, present and future struggles always, are one in the same. Again, Frederick Douglass is most eloquent…
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”
Struggle for personal change and public change begins with hope and demand.