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The wide arc of change

Every generation sees change that needs making. Wrongs that need righting. Laws that need repealing. Injustices that need addressing. The young want to turn things around on a dime, right now. I love that about youth. They want things to be different and they want to be the difference.

Age and wisdom teach that change, a true righting for a change that will last, moves through a wide arc. It takes the long way ’round. It takes time and patience, not just energy and enthusiasm.

Having watched the movie Mandela: the Long Walk to Freedom, I was struck by this. The older Nelson Mandela got, the slower he went. The burden he carried grew heavier and heavier, and this slowed him to just the right pace. The urgency (and insurgency) of youth had been replaced by a calm, pensive plod forward.

Such irony, that we rush when we’re young because time seems to be slipping away, and we slow when we’re older when we know time grows short. What a paradox: the oldest or those with the least time left to bring about change take time to get it right.

The fiery young people keep the need for change before us. We need this. But what a responsibility to temper this with judgment and understanding and conversation. To discuss it with those who live it and those who administer it. And still to persevere, even where there’s antagonism, opposition and disagreement. It’s a long way home, and perspective that swings wide may be the best route. Settling for perfect pace may be our only means to finish alive. Our heart can only take so much.

But gradual training strengthens it: short runs, brief rides, casual walks, bouts of intensity sprinkled with rest and recovery.┬áThe quick fix disregards the details, just like the fad diet, or the exercise gimmick. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’re patient for progress. You raise your hand and don’t talk out of turn. This is the best way to get people to choose listening and for right to make its way forward.

It makes me wonder if this life isn’t just about introducing us to the perfect pace we will one day see and live. Allowing us to settle into it and feel at home in it. Things certainly need changing. But righting, now that takes time.

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