If This Is Really Important to You…

I had a pivotal life lesson when I was 4 years old.

We, as a family, sat down to dinner. It was then that I discovered the horrible truth of that moment – mom had made lima beans. Now these weren’t any lima beans, they were the BirdsEye Frozen Lima Beans that she always cooked too long so they got hard, crunchy, gag-in-the-throat dry.

Doing what any rational 4 year old would do, I put them off to the last, hoping against hope that in the ensuing minutes they would get destroyed by meteor strike or super-villain attack. No such luck.

But now a new tragedy was unfolding. During the course of the meal I had consumed all my milk. Now I had nothing with which to wash them down.

I asked for more milk. “No” was the answer, “after you finish your lima beans you can have more.” I tried to make the case that by then it would be too late, it wasn’t possible to eat them without milk, and even if it was, I was not likely to survive the experience.

No luck.

I begged. I pleaded. I cried. I was getting ready to really cut loose when it happened.

My older sister looked at me across the table and said, “why don’t you just get up and get your own milk?”


you-dont-get-it-by-whiningThis was the one option that had never occurred to me – to do it myself.

It was a life-changing event.

Today I listen to the impassioned pleas, asking, begging, crying “someone should…”, “the government needs to…”, “there aught to be a…”. Through the prism of a lesson I learned when I was 4, I ask, “if it means that much to you, why don’t you get up and do it yourself?”

Over time I realized something else, something just as important: It generally takes less time and effort to just do what I want than it takes to beg and cajole others, especially bureaucrats, into acting, and it usually has few preconditions and strings attached.

History is replete with stories of single people who changed the world simply by standing up and acting. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim – to stand by helplessly doing nothing. If the government cuts funding to a program you feel is important, send in your own check to help pay for it, or step it up a level and start a fund-raising campaign, or go all out and start your own non-profit to do what the government fails to provide.

Who could have known that lima beans and an empty glass of milk would ultimately empower me to take on the causes in which I believe. What will it take to get you to stand up and act? If you’re not sure, try buying some lima beans.


Author: Nick Batik (the Cowboy Buddhist)

I was raised a Quaker and later converted to Buddhism around the time I met His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1981. Along with my parents and family, I have been active in civil rights and women's rights since the 1960s. I am the product of strong women – two grandmothers who owned and ran businesses in an era when women did not own or run businesses. One of whom who was a crippled, non-english speaking immigrant, in a time and place where women couldn’t vote or own property, immigrants were feared and hated, and there were no laws, protections, or support of any kind for the handicapped. Yet, despite all this, she built a business that was franchised on three continents. I have a sister who is a medical doctor, and one who worked the North Sea oil rigs. I have traveled the world, and currently live in Texas.

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