Change is Good for You

by DavalosMcCormack on October 6, 2009

The one constant in our lives – other than death, taxes and the Oakland Raiders sucking – is change. One way or another change is a daily feature. And I don’t just mean you get change for the bus or that you change your underwear (though I certainly  hope you do). No, I mean that pretty nearly every aspect of our lives is subject to change at any given moment. For better, or for worse.

In some instances change can be relatively minor – the hospital where I work recently changed its policy on “casual Fridays” to require people to be a bit more business-like and a little less casual; in itself not a big deal but certainly something to remember come Friday morning and you are trying to decide between the Armani and Prada or the cut off jeans and flip flops.

In some instances change can be huge – you suddenly realize that you are not happy as a chartered accountant and instead want to be a painter so you give up everything and move to the South of France equipped only with a painter’s smock and a Painting by Numbers book.

But often our first reaction to change is to fight it, to want to stop it and keep things the way they are. That’s understandable. To a degree. But after a while it can be truly exhausting, opposing everything that comes along and only going along with it reluctantly when you have to.

If change is a natural part of life, wouldn’t it be easier to just recognize that fact and embrace it?

Or, more radically still, why not be an agent of change? And sometimes we need to do both simultaneously.

That thought occurred to me when I was watching a preview of an amazing new documentary on the history of the San Francisco Bay. The documentary is the dream of a friend of mine and he’s been working on it for years. At first it doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting project for people other than water lovers and engineers. But if you heard Ron talk about it, after five minutes you’d be engrossed and fascinated. And when you see the documentary you realize that this is not just about the history of a body of water, it’s about us, our lives, what kind of lives we want to live, what kind of lives we want for our children and their children. It’s about what kind of world we want to live in.

And most importantly it’s about deciding that if we don’t like the world we live in, the way things are going, how can we change it.

In the case of the San Francisco Bay it went from one of the most extraordinary natural preserves in the world to a festering, shrinking, stinking mess. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw developers grab more and more bits of land around the Bay and fill in more and more of the shallow waters so they could build homes and businesses – such as oil refineries, garbage dumps etc. By the early 1960’s a study was suggesting that up to 70 percent of the Bay could be filled in and used for development.

Few people cared. There was so much industrial development around the fringes of the Bay, so much garbage being dumped in, so much toxic pollution and so many dead fish, that the water stank. People avoided going near it.

Then three women decided that enough was enough. They recognized what a jewel the Bay was and set about trying to preserve it. Three women. Against development. And they won, because they managed to capture the imagination of ordinary men and women, they managed to get the attention of those in positions of influence, and they managed to make everyone understand that the quality of the lives of people living around the Bay Area was ultimately far more important than building more homes.

They won, and in doing so laid the basis for many other environmental groups to follow in their footsteps and be equally successful.

They won not by going along with the changes that were taking place, but by embracing a different kind of change, change for the better, change that took us back to where we used to be, and not just embracing it but actively working for it and making it happen.

We can’t all be like those three ladies and make such huge changes that affect people’s lives. But we can have an equally dramatic impact on our own lives, and the lives of people around us.

We can decide to finally quit smoking.

We can decide to finally drop the resentment we have felt towards family members.

We can decide to really start living a healthier life

We can decide to do anything we want.

We can decide to change.

All we have to do is decide we are ready.

Oh, and if you get a chance, watch Ron’s amazing documentary on saving the Bay. It’s on KQED-TV this coming Thursday, October 8th and 15th  at 8:00 pm.  You can get details at www.kqed.org/savingthebay

It will be available a number of times in the next few months, hopefully, nationally as well.

It is a fascinating story of change for the better and it’s also proof of perseverance, thank you, Ron Blatman!

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