At a bus stop the other day I ran into a woman I had not seen for several years.
After our hugs and “how’ve-you-been’s,” she started talking about the school district and its treatment of her son. Her son was no longer in the school district, but she was still angry, to say the least, about her struggles with the school district on his behalf.
She said her son had been a special needs student and she had had to fight for his rights from the time he started school – fight to get him classified as a special needs student, fight to get him into and keep him in special needs classes, and fight against the school’s predictions that her son would never be self-sufficient.
This mother all but shouted (in the church sense of “shout”) about how her son had graduated from high school, taken some courses after high school and now held a job. She was so proud of her son’s accomplishments and how he had defied the pessimistic predictions of the school district. She had always had hope for her son. Hope: “feeling that what is wanted will happen.” (Webster’s) “Keep hope alive!” (Rev. Jesse Jackson)
Her story reminded me of a PBS interview I heard one morning about a black woman who fought for civil rights in her community. She fought alone. Friends abandoned her because they feared retribution if they supported her defiance of and challenge to discriminatory practices. During her interview, she said how painful this abandonment had been and that there were times that she was so afraid and so lonely, but she persisted in her struggle because it was the right thing to do. Her persistence brought about changes in her community. Folks eventually supported her. She kept hope alive.
Too often, a single person or a small group of people are attacked because they are the only voices standing up for what is right. But as Margaret Mead said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead, 1901-1978; an American cultural anthropologist; frequently featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s.)