Before we can truly address how to move society forward, we must each examine our true feelings and beliefs, make a concerted effort to change or amplify our actions, and fortify our values. Change will not come overnight, but it will start with a single step. Will you join me in taking that first step?
As a roadmap for this journey, I offer the following five Catalysts for Good that guide the work of The Patterson Foundation that may be helpful here: Connecting, Learning, Sharing, Evolving, and Strengthening.
It is clear we face many challenges. We now have a chance to look inward and ask ourselves the tough but important questions required to test our values and beliefs to ensure they reflect our true selves—and change them if they don’t. The vast majority of humanity wants to live in the best possible version of the world as the best possible versions of themselves. But, to do that, we have to authentically connect with ourselves.
We have an opportunity to learn and to grow beyond what was possible a year ago. But to take advantage of that opportunity, we must engage ourselves in the active pursuit of knowledge. If we do, we may discover who we really are and how we want to show up in the world around us.
While social media and 24-hour news networks are obvious places to start, they cannot be our only resources should we wish to authentically engage in active learning.
That requires multiple sources and mediums in addition to dusting off our critical thinking caps. Not only should we be reading books and scholarly articles, watching documentaries and films to gain perspective, but we also ought to take it to the next level by critically thinking through what we have seen and/or read. Taking the time to really think, analyze, and draw logical conclusions based on evidence and scholarship rather than opinions allows us to examine how we actually feel and determine if we are acting appropriately and in line with our values.
We may even discover we need to alter our actions if they do not align with the conclusions we have drawn. When we take that challenging but essential step, we begin to grow exponentially as a result. And when that happens, the uncontainable urge to share what we’ve learned emerges.
There are few things in this world more powerful than sharing lessons learned. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and embrace our personal growth, then share that growth with our close friends and family, we can inspire others to undertake their own learning journeys. And the more people who do this work and share their experiences, the more ripples are created in our societal pond, and on and on it goes—all from a single stone. Imagine the effects each stone (us, as individuals) could have on societal growth! Sharing what we learn from authentically connecting with ourselves through the active pursuit of knowledge is paramount to creating the space and opportunity for our society, and for us as individuals, to evolve.
New possibilities begin to emerge when our thinking evolves. Grounded in knowledge from our readings and conversations, we can transform ourselves through continued efforts to connect with and learn from others.
This is no easy task, but the more we engage with others, especially in these difficult conversations, the more growth occurs. And as a result, we strengthen ourselves, our relationships, and our resolve for positive societal change.
If any team is only as strong as its weakest link, then what might happen if that weak link becomes stronger? If we each set aside ego and consider ourselves to be the weakest link on our team—American society—and sought to strengthen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us through an insatiable thirst for knowledge and growth, how might that alter our current circumstances? If we each were to strengthen our own understanding, empathy, and resolve towards the creation of a better future, we could build communities teeming with opportunity and equity for all citizens.
Putting It All Together
Through several initiatives of The Patterson Foundation, we have learned just how critical it is to understand the reality of others by learning from their experiences and seeking out their perspectives.
Sometimes that results in a brand-new offering like Advancing Mission Thrivability—which is focused on centering an organization’s mission at the heart of their decision-making processes while facing multiple crises of their own in addition to the current national landscape.
Or even a brand-new initiative, Digital Access for All, which is dedicated to exploring the barriers to digital access for those who struggle to engage digitally and take advantage of a myriad of ever-expanding virtual services, including telehealth, connecting with family and friends, social services, and of course, education.
And sometimes it strengthens a long-standing initiative like the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Though many examples exist, two stand out from the rest: THIS BOOK IS COOL! was created to promote reading through fun and engaging virtual webisodes designed for the whole family, and webinars specifically created for parents featuring author Joy Thomas Moore discussing her book The Power of Presence through the frameworks of economic turmoil, racism, and a global pandemic.
As individuals, we each must take full responsibility for ourselves. Should we genuinely take the time to learn and to grow, we can then come together to continue that journey by starting with our immediate circles and spheres of influence.
We face massive societal challenges that require focused action to address. Together, we can confront these challenges with renewed vigor. We can build a movement toward equity and justice for all people. We are at our best when we celebrate each other for our differences and come together to solve the challenges we face.