Arabian Prince and the sparrow – owning our part in change, without waiting for a big event to engage us.
It’s a wonderful story, about a prince who hears one day that that the sky is going to fall, and the end shortly there after, of all things. He despairs on hearing the news and, addressing his people in the square, one last time, he says:
“My people, the sky is about to fall, the end is upon us all. There is nothing I can do to stop this. You must go and do what you must do at this time, as will I.”
And with that, he left his people wailing and crying in despair in the town square.
He went to his royal stables, saddled up his favourite black stallion, and rode off into the desert, planning to ride until the end had come.
He had been riding for some time when he noticed a small black dot on a distant sand dune. In that moment, curiosity got the better of his despair, and he turned his mount towards the spec and galloped over.
Surprisingly, when he arrived, he found a sparrow on its back, with its tiny fragile feet pointing flat, towards the sky.
The great prince, from the height of his stallion said:
“Little sparrow, haven’t you heard? The sky is going to fall! The end is upon us. What on earth are you doing?”
And the little sparrow said, without turning its determined fix on the sky, or lessoning the straightness of its little legs, simply replied:
“One does what one can!”
It occurs to me that a lot of the time, ordinary people everywhere are thinking a lot of similar things about our world. Social media makes it much easier to share these ideas, and to create, in the moment, quite extraordinary change as a result. Despotic leaders are pulled down, the course of a nation is reset, the hopes of a people are made apparent, help on a scale that could never be organised formally, is marshalled within hours.
In these moments, many of us are overwhelmed or awed by the staggering power of people to affect change. It is both a wonderful and sometimes terrifying phenomenon.
Then the waters subside and calm down, and the world settles. Within three months or so of change, the extreme becomes the norm… until the next time.
However, in these moments of change, I am always reminded of the millions if not trillions of ways in which humans can bring about change and of the importance of remembering this in the day to day rather than in the revolutionary events only.
If violence appals us, what do we do to mitigate this in peak hour traffic when we are tired, or in families when we are frustrated, or at work when we don’t feel heard?
If injustice captures our imagination, how consistent are we in listening to the perspectives of others, of ensuring people are heard around us, at work, in community, in families?
If fairness matters, do we acknowledge the right of people to have a voice, to question decisions, to provide feedback, to improve or change a given direction because it doesn’t feel fair?
If trust in leaders, in each other matters, then where and how do we accept responsibility for building it and for getting feedback on whether or not we have been effective?
If compassion, kindness or even love are central in our lives, how tolerant are we of those we do not know or understand, who we do not know as friends or family?
I think starting small is the centre of all change. A world led by people everywhere who are thoughtful in what they do.
Something we can all own, I believe.