It can be lonely out there. Decisions to make. Chores and errands that no one else can accomplish. Beyond that are global issues that are so large that just looking at them can overwhelm an individual. I can be overwhelmed looking at any home repair project that involves electricity. Individual efforts, especially ones with a bit of help from another individual, can accomplish much, whether that is changing the world or changing a life.
There’s a dance practice every Tuesday night at Bayview Hall, which is useless to anyone from outside the area, but it is very handy for local dancers, like me, who are practicing things that aren’t taught in classes. Some people want new moves. I want to get better at reading my dance partner’s flow. Everyone is different, and are frequently unaware of what their difference is. Some turn better to the left than the right without knowing it. Some want to spin once, twice, thrice, or not at all. Some prefer closed position to open. For two hours every Tuesday night I get to practice reading my follow (I’m the lead so my partner’s the follow. Get it?) while someone else is practicing pivot turns, or basic footwork, or just having fun. And yes, there are people who have to practice having fun.
The practices happen because we, an unofficial group of dancers, occasionally meet and decide on roles, schedules and pricing. Someone interacts with the Board of the hall. Someone puts up the flyers. Someone puts out the emails. Someone plays the music. Someone sets up and cleans up. And we all chip in. (Don’t we? nudge, nudge) It is not a group effort. It is a collection of individual efforts. We have fun and raise some money for an eighty year old rural dance hall. (By the way, the practices are open to the public: ~ 6:30-8:30, $5, smiles and laughs are encouraged.)
Practice ends before the local supermarket closes, so I usually go shopping afterwards. Last night I ran into a fine fellow who was loading up his panniers before bicycling his food back home. In one of those quick grocery line conversations I mentioned that I’d used similar equipment on my ride across America and he pointed out that he was training for a charity bicycle trip down to San Francisco (S2SF :: 2011) that will raise funds for the Ndoto Project. The project is about empowering youth in Africa. It is also about someone, an individual, having an idea and pursuing it.
I know others that have started movements, initiatives, and businesses. It is easy to look back at any notable endeavor and talk about it as an abstraction by considering the actions of the group. Look back far enough though and there’s usually a time when an inspiration struck one or two people doing something completely different, or sitting with a cup of tea or glass of beer. They decided to act and good things happened.
The Ndoto Project may expand or inspire. As I type this the web site describes the goal of getting five young Kenyans into college. Maybe it will grow to help more. Maybe it’s main accomplishments will result from the efforts of five educated Kenyans.
Grand plans are worth pursuing. So are efforts closer to home.
As of 2000 the most common household type was “single”. Been there. Am there. Not my preferred situation, but that is the way it is.
Single people, especially as they get older, can’t do everything. I’m lucky enough to have a network of friends to call. It isn’t the same as having someone in the next room, but it is far better than trying to do everything with only one pair of hands. Someone calls and I help with moving furniture. I call and someone helps me with a bit of wiring. A few of us have experienced panic attacks (which I am convinced is a phase middle-aged men go through, but that is rarely discussed because of derisive comments about mid-life crisis), and it is powerful and helpful to have someone who will pick up the phone just to listen and talk.
My skills are not in carpentry, wiring, or plumbing, but evidently sometimes I can listen and ask the right questions. In this digital world I’ve also helped friends with simple computer problems, have translated internet jargon, and have passed along basic Facebook and email etiquette. My hands may not get as messy, but evidently I’ve helped clean up bits for others. (I still refer anything substantial to the professionals like Gail at The Tranquil Computer.)
Many of us are alone, in a variety of ways. There are people within marriages that feel alone because their partner can’t understand something they are going through, even something good. At times like that, the partner or the partners can reach out to another. It can be too difficult to be alone, but if two people can start Microsoft, and two people can start Apple, then two friends should be able to sort through how to invest an inheritance, and two other friends should be able to install a woodstove, and two other people help each other get through bad day. And maybe two can help each other and then help a third.
A friend lamented, and I agreed, that life shouldn’t be this rough. That complaint is probably as old as language. Maybe it was one of the first phrases shouted when a hungry ancestor missed a meal because the arrow went wide. But we’ve gotten this far because of our individual efforts. Thanks for all the help, and call if you need a hand.