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.
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?”
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.