I share a farm with five other families, a few singles, two cows and lots of chickens. Our farm balances on the crest of suburbia. As in, across the street from our muddy fields lie 600 cookie-cutter homes, almost all built within the past five years.
Back in December, as an expression of neighbourly cheer and communal togetherness, we decided to go Christmas carolling in this brand-spanking-new neighbourhood. We put up flyers on neighbourhood mailboxes and invited them for hot apple cider before and after the wassailing.
The first two homes we approached proved very promising. We belted out Frosty the Snowman with gusto and the children laughed and the moms’ eyes sparkled.
This was such a good idea! We would be like pied pipers spreading neighbourly affection! This was sure to become a cherished neighbourhood tradition and all our neighbours would sing our praises because we had started it!
The next string of houses proved not so promising. People opened their doors a crack and then slammed them shut. Some peeked out their front door windows and then walked away without a smile. The saddest moment came when we met a woman on the sidewalk. She emerged from her car, donning party clothes and had a gift in hand. As our paths crossed, someone in our group started singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas and we all joined in. In response, this woman tucked her chin into her chest, stared straight down at the ground and sped past us, ducking into the house without a glance or smile. Our voices died out like a record player that had been unplugged.
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Mon, Feb 23 2015 10:27 | Gratitude
In elementary school I was the second smallest kid in my class. The only person smaller was a pinched-face boy with the nickname “Mouse.”
Even my identical twin had a 1-½ inch advantage on me from the day we were born. Our height discrepancy was the only way some knew how to tell us apart. My shortness was the clue to who I was.
As a child I learned to stay small, not only in size, but presence. Small people are better at ducking and weaving–avoiding responsibility and attention. I am now middle-aged and middle-sized, but the psychological symptoms of smallness are not shed with added inches.
Not all short people strive for a smallness of influence, of course. One’s influential presence is much more a symptom of personality and resolve than size. A roll call of the vertically challenged easily shatters the myth of a size-equals-influence corollary: the Calcutta missionary Mother Teresa, the abolitionist Harriot Tubman, founder of the American Red Cross Clara Barton, anthropologist Margaret Mead–all women who never made it past 5 feet tall. All women who changed their worlds.
Rosa Parks was 5’2 when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city bus, thereby breaking segregation laws and helping start a movement.
What did these small women have in common, besides their size?
And the courage to take the next small step toward that vision.
I don’t like controversy and I don’t like limelight, so starting the first Christian Environmental Centre in Canada (with the ministry of A Rocha) at times has felt like a job for someone stronger and bigger. A Rocha started out so small and so humbly–in basements, with meetings attended by only handfuls of people–that sometimes I forgot to be scared. But those humble beginnings have led to some expansive places. And I’ve learned to take small steps toward a bigger vision.
This spring the donation of a three million dollar property–a property we’ve been stewarding and operating out of for the past five years–will be complete. A Rocha will own theBrooksdale Environmental Centre. It’s been a 13-year journey from an office in our basement to this place that looks like a cross between an English Tudor village and Shangri la.
While I rejoice in this gift and want to fall to my knees in gratitude, I also want to acknowledge that being big and successful hasn’t been our goal. The value of A Rocha’s newest Environmental Centre lies not in its stunning aesthetics, but in the change it creates. If I’ve learned anything from being small it’s that big does not necessarily equal better.
The thing that matters is change.
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|photo credit: Brooke McAllister|
“I don’t know,” I replied.
She looked at the garlic bed and remarked on how many green shoots there seemed to be. “How many varieties are you growing?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
She pointed at a moth fluttering over the cauliflower. “Is that a good moth or a bad moth?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
And then I crumpled to the ground.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” I wailed, clutching my head with both hands and swaying dramatically on my knees. There might have been screechy violin music in the background. The sky might have turned black and the clouds rained blood.
And then I woke up...
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|photo credit: Steven Depolo|
I'm pleased to announce that I've started blogging over at Sheloves.com as a regular monthly contributor. If you don't know about Sheloves, please check it out. This global community of women are writing wonderful things as they work to empower women and girls all over the world. Here's my post, Learning to Ripstick, from about a month ago: