I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. I’ve been trying to change my eating habits, which means also changing my shopping habits and cooking habits. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed any change in how I feel (one of my co-workers tells me she’s feeling more energetic lately and maybe it’s the healthy eating, though she admits it could also be because she’s in love). But I do finally notice a slight change in my weight (in the right direction).
Last week I saw an article in the local paper about an event to be held this past Saturday, 100000 Poets for Change. The event was intended to promote change through poetic expression, with local events happening at hundreds of locations around the world on the same day. The local organizer here stressed that poems did not have to have a political theme, although the event overall was conceived in terms of social, political, and environmental progress.
I tried to think what a poem with a political theme might be like. I’m sure I have read some, but none come to mind – they obviously aren’t among my favorites. The whole idea of a political poem strikes me as a bit misguided. Politics is tied to specific issues in a specific place and time. Poetry – and literature in general – is supposed to have universal significance. Certainly writing about issues of a particular time and place can have a broader significance (think of the New Testament epistles). But poetry written with the purpose of bringing about particular changes seems too utilitarian.
I did ask myself, though … if I were to write a poem with the aim of bringing about some kind of change, what kind of change would it be? The idea of Saturday’s event was that each local meeting would have a theme with local importance, so while in one city it might be about the local environment, in another it would be education, and in another civil rights or poverty or community health. I’m not sure what people consider the big issues in our community, though air quality is one concern that I keep hearing about.
What change is important enough to me that I would work for it and encourage others to be involved? Well, there are the things I’m already involved with, such as Boy Scouts and Junior Achievement, to help our young people grow up with good character traits and the practical knowledge they will need to succeed in life. I don’t know if I’d call that “change,” exactly, but if those organizations weren’t active in our community I’d want them to be.
I know people who are involved in other nonprofit organizations that I would consider getting involved with if I had time to spare and were looking for a good place to use it. There’s one provides tutoring and homework help after school, and another that repairs houses for people who can’t take care of the repairs themselves. Those groups are doing valuable work for the community, but I’d feel kind of strange about trying to get people to join or support those groups when I’m not involved in them myself.
I’m sure our community is far from perfect – I don’t read the local paper every day, but it seems every time I go to their website there are links to stories of people who have been arrested or convicted for assault, robbery, vandalism, or fraud. Yesterday I read an editorial about what the city should do with the results of a survey several months ago that measured people’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the city. I was surprised at the level of dissatisfaction expressed – and more so that one of the biggest complaints had to do with shopping. Sure, there are a lot of things you have to go elsewhere to get (or order online), but that would be low on my list of priorities for change.
I found myself concluding that the kinds of change that I would really like to see are those that affect me personally more than the community at large. I’d like more of a sense of closeness to God and trust in Him, I’d like to lose weight and get in better shape, I’d like to have a close friend, and I’d love to have our financial difficulties resolved. Probably the same things a whole lot of other people would like. And all of them a matter of daily faithfulness in the little things of life, not something where publicity or media campaigns accomplish much.
So I didn’t go to the 100000 Poets for Change event on Saturday, though I’m curious how it went. (I haven’t found anything in the paper about it.) What kind of change were other people looking for? Were their goals more political or personal? Did any of the poetry readings bring new insight or prod people to greater involvement?
Whether I look for change or not, of course, it finds me. Sunday I found out that my husband will be preaching at the same church every week for the next few months. That’s good change, but it also requires change on my part, because I need to work more at getting to know people at a church I’m attending regularly than one I visit once a month or so. And it means I won’t see much of people at the other church we’d been visiting when we weren’t at that church.
Yesterday I found out that I’ll have a new supervisor at work next week. We’ve known for a few weeks there was a big department reorganization coming, but I tried not to think about it too much when I had no way of knowing where I would end up. Now I know where I’ll be in the organization chart, but not yet what I’ll be doing. (Hardly anyone else knows either.) My previous supervisor had certain shortcomings, but at least I was used to her, and liked the group I worked with. Now I have to get used to a new supervisor and working with new people, as well as possibly new duties.
Last night we got a call from my brother-in-law, letting us know my husband’s aunt died yesterday. I barely knew her, but my husband will be going to the funeral on Friday. For a couple of days it will be just Al and me (and Kyra, our dog) – just a temporary change and pretty small at that, but the cause of it is a reminder of our mortality, and never knowing what other changes, big or small, will burst into our lives each day.
I suppose all our feelings about change, both the desire to bring about certain changes and the fear of others, comes down to control. We want to be able to control our circumstances, replacing the bad with the good and the good with the better, and we don’t want what we already have to be replaced by the unknown, which might be worse than what we have now. But of course we have very limited control over our circumstances. We really only have control over our own choices, and sometimes – especially when it comes to attitudes – we don’t feel like we have a whole lot of control even there.
I found a few quotes that express well, I think, the role change has in our lives.
- Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer
- Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly. ~Francis Bacon
- All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France
- When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~Victor Frankl
- Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better. ~King Whitney Jr.