Find me a millennial who has not been swept away by the tide of 21st Century apathy, and you will have found a diamond in the rough. My generation is not the only one subject to this affliction of carelessness, but it is certainly quite common for us to fall between the cracks.
Why is that?
I remember a time when my peers were voicing out their dreams and hopes for the world to anyone who would listen, singing on rooftops and distributing access to makeshift poetry websites, chanting in the street for freedom from hunger, freedom from genocide, freedom from apartheid, and love, love, love! I was one of them.
Caring about people and about the world is a very vulnerable state of being. When we care openly, we create opportunities to get hurt or to be disappointed. This is enough of a deterrent for those of us with cautious spirits.
My political science teacher once said: “If you do not want boulders in your path, choose your intellectual wars wisely. There are inhumane atrocities committed everywhere, and you cannot resolve them.” The crippling words of a hopeless man. It took me nearly 10 years to realize that his advice was a biproduct of his own disillusion with the world, and that he was teaching from a place of fear. A teacher who is so afraid should never be within ten yards of a child.
Fear cannot be the guide. When it is, apathy is reinvigorated. We bury our heads in phones instead of books, we do not look each other in the eye when we say hello (if we say hello), and we shuffle our feet along, so stuck in our own minds and problems that we don’t see anyone or anything else.
Two months ago a lady wrote a complaint to my community’s facebook page. Her mother had slipped and fallen over ice in the street. The old lady hurt herself so badly that she couldn’t get up. An hour passed before someone responded to her outcry for help although the street was buzzing with people.
Allowing fear to be the guide creates a world like that.
I reject this reality, although I have become less impassioned over the years and have endured long bouts of silence. Silence can inspire creative change when it is intentionally designed to serve that purpose. However, silence due to apathy doesn’t move anything. It doesn’t challenge anything. It’s hollow.
And so, when I feel too overwhelmed to roar, I always choose to be a pebble.
A pebble rolling with enough force can bring down a stack of dominoes. A pebble lodged in a great machine can stall the machine and cause the engineer to investigate the faults and make corrections. A pebble under the foot can cause the man attending to his iphone to jerk his leg, curse, and look up for a second. Look at people.
Until you look at people, recognize your fear and apathy, and choose to indulge in an open, potentially painful, and overwhelming sense of caring, the machine won’t stop long enough for us to uncover and heal the faults.
Be a pebble. Be a diamond in the rough.
And remember… we design our own luck!