Right Now You Are Activating Change

attitude change saves world, global consciousness, gay rights, human rights, change makers,

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My mother tried throughout her pregnancies to get hospitals and doctors to change their rules. She wanted a natural birth, she wanted her husband with her, she wanted to hold her babies after they were born. Instead regulations were followed— every decision excluding her. That meant her labors were induced, she was given painkillers, my father had to stay in the waiting room, and except for standard in-room hours her babies were kept apart from her in the hospital nursery. Such procedures made it easier for the institution and less trouble for doctors.

By the time I had babies her futile requests were standard policy. Every woman was encouraged to have one or more support people with her, to room in with her baby, and to give birth naturally. It took change-makers to turn those policies around. Those change-makers were ordinary people who had a vision of something better. Some of them actively worked to see those changes happen but I suspect most of them simply talked, read, wrote, and otherwise carried on with what looked like everyday lives while activating awareness in people around them.

This is how real progress happens. Yes, there’s the much cited quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And yes, there are torchbearers for our big changes who are often misunderstood, even persecuted, while they lead the way. But lets not assume that we don’t qualify as “thoughtful, committed citizens” if we aren’t at the front of any movement. It’s about action but it’s also about attitude. Those attitudes make justice, ecological harmony, and peace possible.

Those “in charge” are often well behind the consciousness of the people they supposedly lead. Many in authority impose the same order, same rules, same limited thinking on people who have opened themselves to bigger possibilities. That’s true when we look at mainstream medicine, education, organized religion, finance and banking, government, science for hire, and multinational corporations. Such established institutions tend to become more rigid in response to vital change shaking their structures loose. The lower levels of moral reasoning that often hold those structures so restrictively in place (might makes right, or an eye for an eye, or conformity to norms) have less relevance when more and more people are in touch with deeper wisdom.

You may be activating change right now by the content of your conversations, the ideas you see taking hold around you, the way you stay informed, the way you raise your children and treat your friends, how you choose to spend your money and not spend your money, the way you make a living, the causes you advocate and believe in, and how you interact with our living planet. You, like so many change-makers, may already be living through deeply felt, personally lived ethics. That itself causes rippling change. Torchbearers of the last century who brought about so much good could do so because awareness shifted and deepened.

It may seem that small personal efforts make little difference when the problems facing the world are so huge. But bemoaning what’s wrong usually doesn’t effect much positive change. It may very well just entrench the feeling that we’re victims of all that’s Big and Bad. Instead we can see how truly interconnected everything is. Mind and matter, internal and external, thought and deed–all are aspects of the same essential aliveness in a universe where nothing is really separate.

My mother didn’t go looking for causes but when they were in front of her, she stood up for what was right. This happened often when she was a young registered nurse working in a large Chicago hospital. She defied rules requiring nurses to stop laboring women from delivering until a physician was present (perhaps to collect higher fees?). Nurses were expected to keep women from pushing, and in extreme cases, to hold back the head of the emerging baby. As you might imagine, some infants were deprived of oxygen or worse. My mother refused to follow the policy, more than once delivering a baby herself if the doctor didn’t arrive in time. She also refused to follow the policy that restricted incubators to private pay patients. When necessary she simply went to another ward, took an incubator, and faced the consequences. She got in trouble over and over. She did it anyway.

Once she had children of her own, my mother spent much of her life as what she’d call a homemaker. She did all sorts of good on a small level. She herself been a lonely child, perhaps as a result she was remarkably skilled at staying closely connected with and supportive of people. She functioned as a sort of informal Wikipedia for her wide network of friends, always putting her hands on an article she’d clipped so she could advance knowledge to help others. I often didn’t agree with her political opinions but I saw from her example that activating change often has more to do with living as if compassion is not just necessary, it is essential.

Who or what in your life reminds you that progress is happening, even on a small personal level? 

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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19 Responses to Right Now You Are Activating Change

  1. mamamzungu says:

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that hospital policy would be to prevent a woman from pushing when she’s ready. That seems barbaric.
    This was exactly the post I needed to read right now. Working for a “change making” organization can sometimes actually squash all your idealism as that change becomes bogged down in bureaucracy, inertia, politics and all kinds of other ugly realities. But I do believe that the small kindness we perform to the people immediately around us mean as much if not more than our more lofty efforts. You put this sentiment wonderfully.

    • The post may very well be a deep exhalation from my sense that I’m doing less (actively) than I used to do. I still strongly believe that we have a role in changing what needs to be changed, particularly when our hearts are moved to get involved. I’ve just stepped toward doing more in my own day to day life.

      I’ve spent a lot of years in activist groups for social justice and environmental change, noticing that the very thing that we’re working to improve is often infects the group. I’m talking a sense of fighting what’s wrong rather than bringing into being what’s right, as well as anger, judgment, and despair. I know this happens in all sorts of groups on all parts of the political spectrum. It’s dispiriting. After years of involvement I walked away from a group of committed people who were working to eliminate nuclear weapons because of a cake brought to a meeting that had a candidate’s name preceded by the word “Nuke” emblazoned in frosting. Stupid joke, sure. But the mean spirited comments and generally hopeless grousing made me realize it was time to work more quietly and personally on the issue. At least for now.

  2. You are making change with your writing, Laura.

  3. Rebecca says:

    This is a wonderful peace on being your own kind of changemaker, whatever you do. I was blessed to know your Mother. She was surely a women of substance and a wealth of information who stood firm on her beliefs. I admired that and her. I see it in you, in your own way, doing your good work to open eyes, heart, and brains.Thank you for your witty, warm, and wonderful posts. Keep em coming!

  4. Sarah says:

    Your mother sounds wonderful – a woman of substance indeed. And this post was deeply inspirational. You bring change when you write, even if in only the kindness, compassion, and love which underlies your every word. It’s a radical gentleness, an extraordinarily normal beauty, and it offers real hope. So thanks :-)

  5. Gale says:

    I am a regular reader though I have not posted a comment before. I just wanted to say how much I value your posts and the supportive positive messages you convey. You don’t know me but your posts have often provided the little bit of insight or warmth I needed to turn my day around. I deeply value your perspective and it helps me create positive changes in my life. Thank you.

  6. Erika says:

    Thank you for this lovely post. You certainly have activated plenty of change for my family. I often feel like I’m not doing enough, but you’re right. Without realizing it, I am making a huge impact just by living the way I believe. And as a side note, I had natural hospital births (not easy to do) and for my second, the baby was coming out before the doctor had arrived. I yelled, “she’s coming!” The nurse told me not to push. I said, “I’m pushing!” My husband (amazing!) said, “I’ll catch the baby if you can’t do it!” Then she finally relented and did her job. So crazy! It happens even today, this was less than 2 years ago.

  7. Beautiful memoir post. I believe blogging has done a lot to make positive changes, not just as a medium, but as a social affect. There is a world sense of comradeship and generosity that has stemmed from blogging communities. Gone are the days of writers being wary of other writer ‘stealing their ideas’ or ‘competing’ for publishing rights. There is a great sense of passing on information and reaching out to people we would not otherwise know if it weren’t for the miracle of the internet.

    • I agree on the comradeship and generosity happening not only via blogging but on forums and elsewhere. In my book I called the internet effect a different kind of global warming, a “global heartening.”

  8. I LOVE the possibility that I might, in my own small way, “be activating change right now” and by the idea that I might be a “change-maker”. Thank you, Laura! I JUST put down a book by ‘The Power of Moms’ organization called ‘Deliberate Motherhood’ which echoes Laura’s sentiment about being able to make change in the world, in this case specifically as mothers. I loved this, “Our children want so much to read and ride bikes and become “big”. Ambition and accomplishment are part of human nature. Mothers feel this as much as anyone.” And I thought ‘YES’ I do want to make a difference and it’s OK to feel that whilst focusing so much on my children right now. And then I read your post, Laura, and I thought ‘I AM making a difference’ just by living/mothering intentionally/deliberately and trying to be fairly vocal/public about it. And at this stage of my life, this is a good enough achievement. How nice to get a lovely comment from Wendy, Laura! Well done!! Also, totally agree with Charmaine comment above about blogging. It’s a wonderful e-hug at the end of a long day sometimes!

  9. Reblogged this on Homeschooling Middle East and commented:
    A post from the wonderful Laura Grace Weldon again, being as thoughtful and, for me, reassuring, as ever. I posted a bit of a comment after her post if you’re interested on my take on it. As you can tell from it, I’m really enjoying the book ‘Deliberate Motherhood’ by ‘The Power of Moms’ organization. A great shot in the arm at just the right time and then along came Laura’s post and I feel good! I LOVE living/mothering intentionally and that I MIGHT be making some positive impact not just to my kids (which is a biggie right there) but also the wider world! I just need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and write more regularly about it :)

  10. Laura, Your mother reminds me of my mother. While I don’t agree with your POV in some respects, I appreciate your work very much. You are courageous, like your mother. -LMN

  11. Michelle says:

    So glad I had a home birth! =D I think that more women are discovering that option helps the whole situation progress as well.

  12. Susan says:

    Love this post It completely resonates with me and what I’m trying to do in my life – be the best person/mom/wife I can be and write about my experiences. I have dreams of doing “bigger” things “someday” but for now my kids are my most important focus. It is so nice to have that affirmed and I adore the ideas you presented in the beginning about how we *can* influence change this way.

    Your stories of your mother are amazing. I am a childbirth educator and I’m currently reading Ina May Gaskin’s latest book, “Birth Matters” and she talks about practices like holding mom’s legs together so the baby doesn’t come out – INSANE!

    Thanks for your words. You are really good with them.

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