“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Back in the early 90’s, when I worked for a small nonprofit serving people with HIV/AIDS, I had a poster with this quote above my desk. It was, I believe, the motto of us all. We believed we were working towards a day when AIDS would be eradicated. And in the immediate, at least, when people with this disease would easily receive all the things they needed without discrimination.
Individuals make a difference. Some, more prominent than others, have inspired us to follow their lead. To contribute in whatever ways we can, both large and small. Joined together, our contributions made an impact. Together, we change the world.
Women’s Rights, LGBTQ+ rights, Civil Rights, Disability Rights – the strides that have been made in equality all began with small groups of committed individuals. We are not where we want to be – true equality is still not the norm either in the law or in our communities – but we have, most certainly, come a long way.
HIV and AIDS still exist. Racism is still rampant. Discrimination is still prevalent. Women, on average, make only 80% of what men earn in the same positions. Climate change is accelerating at such a rapid pace it seems almost apocalyptic.
AND – things are better. Gone are the days when throwing trash out the car window was the norm. When lynching people was acceptable. When touching a woman’s ass without her permission was okay. These things still happen. Absolutely and way too frequently. But they are no longer acceptable. They are no longer the unspoken norm. They are no longer okay. People have evolved. People are aware. Not everyone, but enough of us. WE are the majority. We are better than we were thirty years ago. Because we came together, as small groups of individuals, to respond to injustice. We came together to create change. And while we have indeed improved things, we still have a long way to go.
Honestly, I have days bordering on despair. So much effort over so many years and sometimes it is difficult to see the impact of our actions. Change has not happened as quickly or universally as we would like. Yet, change HAS happened. Change for the good.
“Yes there are miles in front, but what a distance we have traveled.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court Justice, Senate Confirmation Hearings, July 20-23, 1993
Today, along with so many of you, I mourn the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG. A small, powerhouse of a woman, fiercely determined in her will to bring justice and equality to our country. Just two months after the passing of John Lewis, another great, also fiercely committed to justice and equal rights. These leaders have left us, like countless others before them.
It’s up to us now. Just as it has always been. We, the people. Small groups of committed individuals. We must continue the fight. We must carry on. We must not lose hope.
We owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children. To our sisters and brothers of every generation.
Carry on. Fight the good fight. Grieve, yes, and rest. But do not look away. Regroup. Get in good trouble. Vote.
The future is up to us. It always has been.
Photo taken in 1993 at Community Response in Oak Park, IL.
Margaret Mead poster is above my head.