Small Actions Make a Difference

I’ve always struggled with feelings of insignificance. “But I’m just a grain of sand on the beach of life. What could I possibly do that will have any real effect?” I’ve felt a lot of terror in coming out of hiding and being visible, but I don’t see a choice anymore. I’m still scared, but the fear doesn’t stop me like it used to. 

Some months ago I started watching interviews of activists on YouTube to find out what gave them hope. I was most struck by interviews of the late Howard Zinn, an educator, social activist, and historian who described U.S. history from the perspective of the oppressed groups. He spoke about significant movements he had studied and also lived through, and here is what he noticed: Over and over again, during dramatic upheavals in human history, small groups of people come together and organize. They try small actions that sometimes work and often fail. The trick is to persevere and not give up, even when it seems against all odds. Why? Small actions multiply. More people do the small actions and then it spreads, and each time people get better at the actions; each time they improve. The small ripples eventually multiply until they become a huge tide, which eventually becomes a tsunami of change. We just have to believe that we can make a difference. According to Zinn, that’s how it’s always worked throughout history.

That gave me a lot of hope. Never underestimate the “small actions.” I don’t know if my small actions will have any impact on the bigger scheme of things. That’s much too complex to calculate. But I don’t think about it anymore. I simply challenge myself to go full-out [to act without restraint], to go right to the edge of what I think is possible, with these “small actions.” That’s enough. Whatever happens beyond that is out of my control.

Remember, we don’t need to convince everyone, just a critical mass that will take us over the tipping point. Then there will be an avalanche of change.

Bo-Young Lim

Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change

(Present Time 189, October 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00