by Kathie England

What Can You Do for You?

This post begins the third year of My 1000 Small Steps project launched on January 20, 2017. The goal of this project is to share the perspective that small actions taken by many individuals can help shift our future to prevent the results of the 2016 election from repeating in 2020.
In the introduction to this project I shared the words of Leo Tolstoy, Margaret Mead, Leonard Cohen, and Edward Kennedy – all reflecting on the power, the process of not giving up in the face of despair that so many of us felt on the morning of November 9, 2016. (And almost every day since…)

Leo Tolstoy: History is the combined effort of the many small things that ordinary individuals do every day, “An infinitely large number of infinitesimally small actions.”

Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Leonard Cohen, recorded shortly before his death, quoted Werner Herzog. “Keep on walking. Shape the future…”

Edward Kennedy, quoted in The New York Times shortly after his death. “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

I asked, What if millions of us committed to take small actions?
Today’s post was inspired by Krista Tippett’s recent interview with Claudia Rankine, poet, essayist, and playwright. (One of my favorite pleasures has become listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast while I take long walks.) The title of this podcast intrigued me: How Can I Say This So We Can Stay in This Car Together?
Quoting from this interview I invite you to focus on Ms. Rankine’s response to a question she was asked, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?”

“Ms. Tippett: You wrote a play, coming out, The White Card, as you were on the road with Citizen and out of the conversations that emerged from that. Now, you said, you’re writing about how to have these conversations. It seemed to me, maybe this was a spark. You describe being in this cathartic moment where you were speaking, reading, and a man stands up and says, ‘What can I do for you? How can I help you?’ — trying to muster in himself the appropriate response to what you were showing, and you said, ‘I think the question you should be asking is what you can do for you.’

As you listen to this conversation, I invite you to answer Rankine’s question for yourself: “What can you do for you?”
And, I encourage you to read Citizen, An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, whom I had the privilege of hearing last year at Portland’s Arts and Lectures Series.