Wednesday, June 10, 2020

If You Change Nothing, Nothing Will Change

I love this story.

It used to mean just one thing to me: the importance of the individual, working against all odds to make change.

It still means that, but now it means so much more. I am learning to read the world through a more critical lens. I understand that framing action with individuality is a privilege that comes with my white skin. Now I see the hummingbird as Black people working tirelessly to put out the fires of racism while all the other animals are transfixed and made helpless by the raging fire. Especially the elephant. The elephant in the room. The elephant of Whiteness and white privilege, who holds so much power and could easily make a big difference in putting out the fire.

Now this story is reminding me that no matter how much good I (an individual) do in the world, the real power is in the We (lots of us working together).

That brings me to the quote in the title of this post, which has been haunting me these past several weeks as I thought of myself as the I, rather than the We. In my life in the past several weeks, nothing much has changed. Oh, I'm reading more, learning more, planning for better units of study, volunteering, protesting, donating...but my life has not been substantially changed by the events of the past month. Not by the police brutality, not even (too much) by the pandemic. Me, me, me.

However, when I look at myself as a part of different groups (We), I know that collectively, WE are making a difference.

I belong to NCTE, and WE are making a difference in centering the scholarship and expertise of Black members in all kinds of ongoing events that educate and empower teachers to address issues of race and justice in our classrooms and to work to change the systematic racism in education.

I belong to a Blessings in a Backpack delivery team, and WE are making a difference in our school community by delivering food to families in need on a weekly basis.

I belong to a local community who will no longer patronize a favorite restaurant that has left in place problematic policies and has refused to support Black employees. WE are making a difference by carefully choosing what businesses to support.

Perhaps my life doesn't seem to have changed much (me, me, me), but OUR world is changing.

WE are making a difference.
We ARE making a difference.
We are making a DIFFERENCE.

Every hummingbird drop of change makes a difference. Hummingbird drops of change can inspire elephant trunks full of change. It all matters. Every action toward justice is necessary.


  1. I just sent the film to several who are close to me. The hummingbirds in my yard will remind me. Yes I can. Yes we can.

  2. Thank you, Mary Lee, for offering another hopeful parable during this unsettling time. The I/We examples are making a difference, one drop at a time.


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