You Have to Pick Your Team
by Sonya Vetra Tinsley*, as told to Paul Rogat Loeb
Every day presents infinite reasons to believe that change can't happen, infinite reasons to give up. But I always tell myself, "Sonya, you have to pick your team." It seems to me that there are two teams in this world. And you can find evidence to support the arguments of both. The trademark of one team is cynicism. They'll tell you why what you're doing doesn't matter, why nothing is going to change, why no matter how hard you work, you're going to fail. They seem to get satisfaction out of explaining how we'll always have injustice. You can't change human nature, they say. It's foolish to try. From their experience, they might be right.
Then there's another group of people who admit that they don't know how things will turn out, but have decided to work for change. I see Martin Luther King on that team, Alice Walker, Howard Zinn. I see my chaplain from college [Rev. Sammy Clark] and my activist friends. They're always telling stories of faith being rewarded, of ways things could be different, of how their own lives have changed. They'll give you reasons why you shouldn't give up, testimonials why we've yet to see our full potential as a species. They believe we're partners in God's creation, and that change is really possible.
There are times when both teams seem right. Both have evidence. We'll never know who's really going to prevail. So I just have to decide which team seems happier, which side I'd rather be on. And for me that means choosing on the side of faith. Because on the side of cynicism, even if they're right, who wants to win that argument anyway? If I'm going to stick with somebody, I'd rather stick with people who have a sense of possibility and hope. I just know that's the side I want to be on.
From The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear edited by Paul Loeb (Basic Books, www.theimpossible.org), This was originally published in Loeb's Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. Both The Impossible and Soul of a Citizen won the Nautilus Award for best social change books of their respective publication years. Paul has written on social involvement for The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, AARP Bulletin, Boston Globe, Psychology Today, Utne Reader, Redbook, Parents magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Mother Jones, Salon, the Village Voice, National Catholic Reporter, Chronicle of Higher Education, and the International Herald Tribune. For more info on Paul’s books, please go to http://www.paulloeb.org/
*Sonya Vetra Tinsley (now more commonly known as Sonya Tinsley-Hook) is a strengths and leadership coach, founder of All Our Strengths, mom, singer-songwriter, and active community volunteer living in Decatur, Georgia.