“Come on ref – that’s a terrible call!” “What is the coach thinking – why would he run that play!” “Son, son, that was a terrible shot – get your head in the game!” You could just feel an ever increasing sense of awkwardness amongst the other parents as this mom hurled criticism after criticism from the section of bleachers we were all sitting in. Finally another mother, and a close friend said, “This just needs to stop,” and she proceeded to walk over and sit right next to her. I am not certain what she said but to the great appreciation of the rest of us the slamfest came to a screeching halt.
“If you are not in the arena getting your arse kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.” Brene’ Brown.
Clearly there seems to be no shortage of both criticism and opinion on social media and the 24 hour news cycle. I wonder what motivates a person to move from criticism to action, from opinion to engagement. I wonder if actual involvement is anywhere close to commensurate with the volume of verbosity.
One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. is, “Life’s most important and urgent question is,‘What are you doing for others?” The penetrating conviction of this quote is that mere words are not enough. Living only in the ‘cheap seats’ taking pot-shots never brings forth real change. As the Urban Dictionary suggests, A doer is a person who has a seemingly impossible idea and persists until the idea is fully actualized. Each of us has been uniquely gifted to bring forth good. As the Letter of James reminds us, “…a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Doers make a real difference in the world!
Marge Piercy’s poem To Be of Use sums it up best for me:
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.