Ross Perot had this great quote that goes something like this: “the activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.”
I think he could’ve been more generous to the person who says the river is dirty. Many times speaking up is a very brave thing to do. I agree with the implication that the man who cleans up the river is doing the heavy lifting, though. Both are necessary, but if you have to be one of the two, be the dude who cleans up the river.
One of the infuriating things about the internet is it seems to reward people who raise their voices, but people don’t seem to like sticking around to clean the river. You don’t get as many likes on Facebook for that and it’s so hard most people “can’t even.” They become outrage peddlers when the world needs river cleaners.
I’m guilty of this just like everyone else, but I’ve decided to start holding myself accountable with action. Every time I share a divisive or anger inducing article online, I will now pick up a piece of trash. I figure since I’m basically littering the psychic lawns of my nearest and dearest, I can help my grotesquely dirty neighborhood out a little.
The reason for taking on this personal bit of low-level activism is I was inspired by something Tony Robbins just did here in the Bay Area. Some nuns were getting evicted from their soup kitchen in San Francisco’s rough and downtrodden Tenderloin neighborhood. It’s a familiar story these days: old school SF thing that people rely on gets pushed out to make way for something that pays higher rent.
Tony Robbins did came in and broke some cheddar off for the sisters (about $25K), allowing them to stay in their space short term. What I like about what else he’s doing is he’s not saying, “I’ve got this rent thing for you forever.” Part of his assistance is finding them a new place and helping them get a more viable plan for the business that supports their activities.
This isn’t Robbins’ only act of charity. He grew up super poor and a stranger bought his family Thanksgiving dinner one year. This changed him forever and after that he started trying to feed families with his own money. He started with one meal while he was still working a crappy day job, eventually building the number to just over 2 million served with his charities.
Tony Robbins always seemed a little cheesy to me, so I never read his books. In solidarity with him helping the sisters out, I decided to get one of his books, The first one I’m reading is MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.
If you don’t take control of your finances and learn how to actively manage your money, it’ll be very hard to make real money in this life. If you want to be able to do real good in the world, it helps to have some financial freedom.
Lots of preachers in the Prosperity Gospel movement (the folks who believe god wants you to be rich, but he’d be more inclined to make you rich if you helped buy the church a private jet) cite the story of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know this one, here’s the gist: a person of a totally different religious background helps a person down on their luck. This story usually has the interpretation that you should be ready to help anyone out, no matter their background.
It also does double duty justifying the pursuit of financial stability as an act of good stewardship. If the Good Samaritan didn’t have any cash, he wouldn’t have been able to help by paying for all the doctors the person needed , and there’d be no story.
I’m kind of partial to this interpretation. You should take action in your own life to be useful to other people. If I was a billionaire I’d probably be way more useful to this world than I am now. I might spend some of that money on jet-skis and exotic firearms, but the good works I could get up to would probably justify whatever nonsense I rocked. At least I hope it would.