I found myself encouraging a client this week not to give up on her dream. She is a talented and dedicated teacher in an educational system that is outside the mainstream system. She and I agreed that the original intention of the founder of this particular educational philosophy was that the schools be small, and rooted in the communities in which the students and the families live. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. Most of these small schools have a hard time surviving and, operating as close to the knuckle as they do, they are constantly searching for resources, volunteer help and enough money to give the teachers a living wage. It’s an uncertain and stressful life but so worthwhile as a living alternative to an increasingly stressed public school system.
Once she had gone home, I found myself thinking of all the change-makers whom I know and how challenging it is for them to ride in the visionary section of the bus of life. It takes a unique sort of person to hang in there long enough to see the changes of which they dream. Such a person must be dedicated to their vision, stubborn as hell, self-motivated and and almost hardwired not to let go. Even with these qualities, it’s often a lonely ride and they eventually get tired. And frequently they run out of resources.
Our communities desperately need these individuals for our long-term survival; not in the present so much as in a future, around the bend where we cannot yet see. Some of these people will be recognized and maybe even rewarded within their lifetimes, but most of them plug away doing their small but essential bit, with no acknowledgment and little desire for it. At the most, one day in the far off future, someone might say of them, “Oh yes, odd duck; she was ahead of her time.”
This client and friend is one of those people. She honestly doesn’t see herself as anyone exceptional. She just wants to make enough money to earn a living, and for there to be enough support for the school so that it can stay afloat and allow her to continue teaching, doing what she is so talented at. Right now, she is feeling close to the end of her rope – financially, emotionally, energetically and creatively.
She isn’t alone. Some of us obviously live an alternative life. You can point us out and wonder how we do it. But some of us are closet ‘alternative-ists’. We secretly root for the people who are brave enough, silly enough, or perhaps free enough, to be able to take the risk it requires to go against the norms of our society, but we don’t broadcast our sympathies. Collectively, I think there are far more of us in this world than we know about – both the obvious variety and the closet ones.
I’ve heard it said that these odd-balls who live or work on the fringe are disparaging of the people who aren’t doing what they are, but I don’t think this is true – at least not unless they are feeling at the end off their rope. Some vocal activists might come out with strong messages urging people to change, (or else there will be dire consequences) but there are many more people who just want to keep quietly experimenting in the hope of one day reaching their ideal. The projects might not all succeed, but remember that Edison had far more ‘failures’ than successes. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet (sorry to be trite).
So I was encouraging my client to keep the faith, simultaneously realizing that I could have been giving myself the same message. Faith, trust, hope, call it what you may, we need it or we’ll give up. Our mad social scientists won’t be able to keep plugging away and in so doing, keep the light burning to show the path for those who will be trying to find a better way in the future. So if you come across one of these odd ducks – these change-makers – help them out if you can, but spare some encouragement for them at the least. They’re ahead of the curve and those of us who notice them are their safety net. For those of you who already do this, you have my heart-felt appreciation.