Truth bomb: I don’t much like people who complain and bitch and rant about what’s wrong with the world, our country, their town, husband, boss or child’s teacher … and do absolutely nothing about it. They moon around wishing they were happier, had more money, a different life … and do absolutely nothing about it. Nope, those just aren’t my kind of folks.
I like to think of myself as a person who follows Ghandi’s urging to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is the mantra we embrace in Soul Stretch’s yoga teacher training as we mindfully take a step, and then another and another, into the transformative journey of self-study. Through our self-study, we change, change that is rooted in our core being and fills our hearts with passion. We become agents of change, for ourselves, our community, our world.
You’ll know an agent of change when you meet one. They are the people who make things happen.They are gripped by a passion to nudge the world around them into a better place, to open the eyes of their audience to a problem or need, and who want to make a positive impact, even if there is personal risk involved. They are compelled, even driven, to make a difference.
Quick, name three people you consider to be an agent of change. Just rattle them off.
What names popped into your head? Mother Teresa? Nelson Mandela? Henry Ford? Jonas Salk? Marie Curie? Larger than life people, right? People who have hugely impacted our health or culture.
They are, indeed, agents of change. But most of the people who change things around us are not so high profile. They are just plain folks, trekking along until life interferes and gobsmacks them and without thinking, they take that first step into change. As Lyndon Johnson said, “in a nation of millions and a world of billions, the individual is still the first and basic agent of change.”
CASE #1: Stewards of Catawba’s Agricultural Heritage
Such is the case with Donna and Quintin Smith. Quintin grew up in Oak Harbor and his family summered on Catawba Island. It was a magical place then, with hundreds of acres of blooming orchards and vineyards, farm stands, wineries, wooded areas and a pristine Lake Erie beach and coast. A vacationer’s paradise.
Doug and I have summered in the Catawba area for a bunch of years. It’s been a place of rest and fun and relaxation. We love the water, the parks, and the peaches. Probably the peaches most of all. There is just not anything in the world as good as a peach grown along the shores of Lake Erie.
But the island we know doesn’t look anything like the Catawba of Quintin’s childhood. Today, the shore is cluttered with condos and hotels, and most of the 700 acres of orchards and vineyards have been snapped up by developers to build even more condos and hotels. Gone is the quaint beauty of spring blooms and a plethora of farm stands laden with just-picked fruit.
When Quintin turned the reins of the family manufacturing business over to his kids in 2009, he and Donna bought a decrepit 60 acre orchard on the island, dubbed it Quinstock Farms, and planned a quiet life of gentleman’s farming. Farming it was, but clearing long-neglected land and planting hundreds of peach, apricot and plum seedlings is backbreaking work. When they weren’t pruning or fertilizing or tending the trees, they were immersed in videos and books and classes on how to cultivate and care for stone fruit. Along the way they learned stone fruit made an excellent craft beer. Another passion born … Twin Oast microbrewery opened in 2018 (an oast is a kiln for drying hops). Not only did it provide a source of income to support the orchard, it added 100 or so jobs to the island economy. Step by mindful step, their passion to become stewards of the island’s heritage flourished.
When they heard the former Mon Ami Winery and restaurant was up for sale in 2019, and the likely buyer was a developer, they saw a chance to re-establish the island’s reputation for stellar wines. Before they had a chance to consider that they really didn’t know anything much about wineries, they had bought Mon Ami and renamed it Gideon Owen Wine Company.
Donna and Quintin’s passion to reclaim the land and establish blooming orchards is at the heart of being an agent of change. They are enriching the earth and preserving the agricultural legacy of Catawba Island. It is a passionate stewardship of the land, and the island’s heritage, and a deep, spiritual transformation for the Smiths.
CASE #2: Love and Light for Grieving Widows`
Sometimes it’s a more personal idea, formed with great love and compassion, that leads to being an agent of change.
A few years ago, Pastor Ryan Morter (of The Chapel in Port Clinton) and his friend, real estate agent Jamie Knight, realized that holidays were pretty tough for widows and widowers. Especially Valentine’s Day. With spouses gone, the “holiday for lovers” was empty and lonely and meaningless. No flowers. No dinner at a special place. No kiss. Pretty heartbreaking.
Ryan and Jamie thought so, too, and cooked up the idea of a Widow’s Valentine Luncheon. A fancy meal. Chocolates. Cards. Flowers. Music. A little wine.
They shopped the idea around and before long, they had donations for the meal, gifts, music, and even (oh my!)… men.
The men from Lighthouse House Sober Living volunteered as maitre d’s, waiters, and if a lady was so inclined, as a dance partner when the Big Band music started things hoppin’. In 2019, 52 women were wined and dined at the Widow’s Valentine Luncheon. In 2020, 105 women came. They all left smiling.
The passion to bring kindness and comfort to people drives Ryan and Jamie. Their passion has uplifted the community and for a few hours on a cold February day each year, these ladies can put aside grief and emptiness in exchange for comfort and kindness. The 2021 luncheon is in limbo, thanks to Covid-19, but yogis, I’m thinking these fellows will find a way to deliver Valentine cheer to their ladies, pandemic or no pandemic.
CASE #3: You
As Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Do you feel a small thing tugging at your heart? Maybe you saw an artificial holiday tree outside a school loaded with handmade masks and a sign that said, “Take one if you need one,” and thought, I should do that. Maybe you have been thinking about taking mini-bouquets of fresh flowers every week to a nursing home for the dining tables. Maybe you want to put Free Little Libraries around town filled with books to comfort children during the pandemic. (https://littlefreelibrary.org/).
And I say to you: Go. Do. It. You heard me. Get up, get your phone, and start making a list of what you need to do to be the change you want to see.
We all want to make an impact in our little corner of the world. Cultivate practices that open your heart …yoga was the conduit for me. Let your passions run free, and envision how your idea will bring about positive change. Dig deep, be persistent, partner with people who share your passion. Don’t make notoriety or acclaim your end goal. And for heavens’ sake, don’t give up! Ever! A wise yogi once said the only failure is quitting; everything else is gathering information.
Be an agent of change, lovelies - and Shine On!