Congressman John Lewis is a hero to many. A hero whose skull was cracked more than fifty years ago while working for justice. So in June when he sent out the following on his twitter account, it was a message worth hearing that day and every day:
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Lewis wasn’t calling for a “don’t worry, be happy” type of response to the issues of our times. Instead he knows—from more than five decades in the trenches—that despair creates apathy, and apathy destroys activism. One activist who was in Lewis’ training camps in Mississippi in 1964 notes that “Giving in to despair is lazy surrender.”
A few years ago, when the National Trust conference was held in Nashville, John Lewis challenged us to believe in the idea that “my house is your house. My story is your story. The history of my people is the history of all Americans not just African Americans.” Hearing, understanding, and honoring the full diversity of America’s story is a lifetime of work that helps provide the connective tissue between the me and the we, and leads us to care for something larger than ourselves. As American Express Foundation President Tim McClimon recently wrote in Forbes, “Historic preservation may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of activism, but it actually is one of the longest-running and most successful activist movements in the United States.”
Whatever your life’s work, whatever activism is triggered by your passion, it is likely that Lewis’ admonition fits. Few things worth doing take less than a lifetime, and it is easy at times to get lost in a sea of despair. But think about what “good trouble” would look like for you…and then don’t be afraid to go make some noise.
Have a good week.