“Am I enough to take on the world we live in?”, is a question that quite often crosses my mind. Every time I see something heartbreaking around me, the question whether I alone can make any difference to the reality I live in pierces through me. Every time I see a person breaking a red light, or I see a guy ogling relentlessly I wonder whether my waiting at the signal patiently or my sharp look or reprimand to the pervert will make a difference. Every time I read about a murder in the papers or hear of harassment by those in power, I wonder whether teaching children how to manage their anger or educating people that with great power comes great responsibility will make a difference.
I see the reality we live in and wonder whether what I believe in and how I behave will ever change the way things are. This doubting thought casually flits across my mind now and again and I am once again forced to think, am I enough? Does what I do matter? How long will it take? How long should I keep going?
Through all this self-questioning, history has been on my side. “Yes, you are enough”, it says.”You can do it”, it tells me as I delve through the stories of people who have gone before me. History is fraught with people who alone have made a difference but I find that this difference was not always evident in a big way. It was a difference that was subtle. It was an idea that percolated into society over years. It was a family who changed the mindset of their offspring which bore fruit decades later. It was an innovation that revolutionized society many years later.
What is evident in these instances is that one person, or in certain cases, a group of people, never knew of the impact their example, thought, idea or innovation would make to others. They knew what they wanted to do and they did it, regardless of the state of society and what society believed in at that time. They believed in their cause and they lived it unapologetically.
Rosa Parks was just a quiet little woman who believed that she should be allowed to sit on the bus and not be discriminated against for being a woman of colour. She therefore refused to get up to give up her seat to a white woman and that quiet defiance became the symbol for the civil rights movement. That act of hers made a difference.
Frances Perkins witnessed the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which took the lives of 146 garment workers and decided to devote the rest of her life working towards workers rights. That choice of hers made a difference.
Jamshedji Tata took a substantial risk by getting into business in a time of turbulence but he did, and from that the industrialist, nationalist and philanthropist created India’s biggest conglomerate company that would not only benefit the economy of India but would also give back to the community. That legacy of his made a difference.
These examples give me hope. But, I do have to remind myself of them often to ensure that I don’t give up. I need to reiterate it to myself every single time I am up against something so gigantic such as corruption that I do not even know where to start. I remind myself, and take the step, whether big or small to do whatever my convictions lead me to do, knowing that it will make a difference, in some way or the other, today or 10 years from now, in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children, in a small way or a big one.
What comforts me even more is that there are many others like me who want the same thing. Peace, compassion, safety, integrity and community are goals, hopes and dreams of many others, not just me and it is in this power of unity, collaboration and sense of purpose that I rest my hope on, knowing that together, we are enough.