I am , I’ll admit, an optimist when it comes to human beings. Most of the time, that is. I am not an optimist after I read our daily newspaper. I am beginning to think that part of the problem is that I read it at all. We have one pretty good online local news source, otherwise, “nada.”
There are so many ways to get the news. For national news I actually prefer Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show; I am not alone in that. When I want to know what else is going on, what are people with great energy and ideas and enthusiasm are doing I read GRIST. Sometimes I get mad; it’s not like this is about how great everything is. But a lot of what they do is write about the energy, the ideas, organizations of people right now. There are so many people doing so much good.
I have friends who listen to conservative commentators to, “know the enemy.” I do not believe in that. I am the enemy too. I am as capable of angry, judgmental, self-centered, thoughtless action and words as anyone. But I make the choice to focus on growing in myself those parts that are generous and affirming. Why not?
Which is my point in writing today. As I make my way around this community and through this Safe Routes town committee I hear the occasional, “we did this 10 or 15 or 20 years ago and it didn’t work.” So, what I think? This is a new day. I am amazed at what people all younger than myself, I am 44, are doing. Kudos to them.
Last week I heard Van Jones speak at Siena College. What the local news seemed to focus on were his controversial past moments. (Like any of us submitting to such scrutiny would not have past moments that would make us appear stupid or thoughtless or extreme.) Anyways, what he actually said to the hundreds of student gathered what how much faith he has in their generation. The young people born between 1980-2000 are the most ethnically diverse, ecologically knowledgeable and technologically savvy generation we have known.
I am amazed everyday by what I see and learn. Twenty years ago I dropped out of graduate school to become a yoga teacher. There was nothing hip about it. I didn’t really know why I just knew the trajectory I was on as a grad student in history was not healthy for me. I biked and took the bus to get around town with my young son not knowing a national movement was coalescing at the federal level- finally to fund and encourage this kind of transportation. Ten years ago I tried to introduce the concept of healthy food choices in my public elementary school cafeteria and was met with silence. But many people persevered.
So, even though I am sometimes discouraged at the work necessary to bring a tiny bit of change to a tiny portion of this planet when it comes to encouraging biking, I know I am not alone in this work. I also know, because I don’t want to say it is only the next generation that will do good work, anything I do is built upon the shoulders of many many people before.
But I am not backing down or giving up because “it didn’t work” ten or fifteen or twenty years ago.