Spirituality &
Social Change

The Power of One

In New Jersey, Alice Paul, a Quaker, saw the need to agitate first with women and wake them up. And then to agitate against the government. She knew the pain first hand of having her creativity and brilliance blocked over and over again. She became an officer and a leader in several national women’s organization –traveling through blistering heat, snow and rain. Driven by dauntless resolution, she rallied women from all over the land. One woman acted and through 12 years of persistent toil, she helped win passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and all women in America won the right to vote – launching a women’s rights movement that would change America forever.

In South Africa, a young man from India was working as a lawyer and traveling on business with a first class ticket. Although he was dressed in a three piece suit, white shirt and tie, he was thrown off the train for refusing to move to the colored section. The injustice of it burned in his heart and he resolved to fight “this terrible prejudice.”

One man acted and the liberation of the nation of India had begun.

In Chicago, more than a hundred women and girls were locked inside the garment factory to prevent them for leaving for smoke breaks and to get some fresh air and sunshine. One man acted recklessly, locking the doors day after day. A fire sparked from defective burst forth. A Chicago newspaper reporter told the story in all its tragic depth. His story chronicling the horror of innocent girls and women burned to death alive galvanized the heart of working people across the land – and the great American Labor Movement was born.

In Montgomery Alabama, Rosa Parks, a domestic worker was tired of being on her feet all day washing clothes, cooking and clean white folk’s houses. On a public bus home, her legs aching from her labors, she refused to relinquish her seat to a white person. Her courage galvanized an oppressed black community. One woman acted and the civil rights movement was born.

In Maryland a nature writer and biologist walked the beloved meadows near her home. She was alarmed that she saw no birds and ached to hear their blessed chirping. The silence troubled and angered her. As a professionally trained scientist, she thought she knew how this silence came about. She began work on the book. She called it Silent Spring.

Persevering through the latter stages of breast cancer, she knew she was dying.

She worked on despite her pain. The release of her book, Silent Spring, created a firestorm of outrage against the government and the manufactures of DDT. One woman acted on her pain and the American environmental movement was born. One individual acted in response to the pain and injustice of the people.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, a Lakota medicine man, Frank Fools Crow, saw the need of the young men at Pine Ridge Reservation and trained them for years to overcome centuries of oppression of the people of the good red road. Warriors of the heart, these men knew the power of the sweat lodge and the sun dance through years of direct experience. Frank Fools Crow acted.

His pain was the massacre of more than two hundred starving Lakota women and children gunned down in cold blood by the U.S. Calvary in December 1890 One man acted and AIM – the American Indian Movement was born.

In New York City, on June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a favorite bar for the gay community. Police oppression led to violent demonstrations which continued the next day. Gay men came together and organized for their rights – and the national gay liberation movement was born.

In the great American West, Mitch Snyder was hitch-hiking to California.He was arrested for auto theft and sentenced to two years in federal prison. He served time from 1971 to 1973. While in jail, he met fellow prisoners Father Daniel and Father Philip Berrigan who befriended and mentored him.

Their energies and radical faith had a profound impact on the future directions of his life. He became involved with the Community for Creative Non Violence and over time became its symbolic leader. He and others would stage mock funerals in front of the White House and Congress to dramatize how many homeless men and women were freezing to death on the streets of Washington D.C.

Arrested numerous times, Mitch once walked out of a court arraignment without permission, went to the White House, and was arrested again arrested for climbing the fence to talk to the President. He wrote a book—Homelessness in America, which served as a wake up call to the consciousness of America. During the Reagan era, he occupied a large unoccupied federal building less than a half mile from the Supreme Court and Congress. He was arrested, served time and was released. He then went on a prolonged fast approaching the point of death.The publicity around his fast and possible death forced Reagan’s hand and the building was turned over..One man acted and a national movement for the homeless was born!

In Washington, D.C, Marine platoon leader Bobby Muller came home to an angry and divided nation. In April 1969, while leading a marine platoon assault in Vietnam, a bullet entered his chest and severed his spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed from the neck down He was angry by what he had seen in Vietnam. The appalling human waste and the poisoning of innocent civilians with Agent Orange. He saw that he would face a protracted legal battle in coming years. After winning his law degree he gathered other wounded vets together. They worked tirelessly forming Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and won federal legislation banning the use of Agent Orange. One man acted on his pain, and the modern veterans’ rights movement was born.

In California Candy Lightner got a call that her 13 year old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver while walking to school by a drunk driver. In her grief,and anger, she moved to investigate the laws of her home state. She gathered other mothers from her state and around the country who had lost sons and daughters at the hands of drunk drivers.

One woman acted and persisted – and MADD, Mothers against Drunk Drivers was born.

In Apartheid ruled South Africa, a native one had lived with the shame of Apartheid for too many years. He gathered others together and formed the African National Congress. Imprisoned for 13 years, he was offered release by the government. He refused, even though he had already won over the hearts of the prison guards on Robson Island who would bring him candy, free fruit, books and newspapers. As the violence and terror on the streets grew in intensity he said “I will not leave this prison until my people have full bargaining rights at the table with the government to create a new, free South Africa.” He waited and waited. And finally the new president of South came outside for a brief press conference telling the dominant Afrikaner public that he was releasing Nelson Mandela and his movement the African National Congress would have full bargaining rights to meet with the government and create a free South Africa.

One man acted and a nation was liberated. And the liberator became the new president of a free South Africa.

In the fullness of time, one woman in Denver decided......one graduate student in Boulder decided..Others were drawn to their energy and their vision. They were fed spiritually by digging in the earth and seeing the emerging birth of the New.

And the rest, you will find in the history books in some far distant future. It is all about the power of one – one powerful seed, one powerful, loving man or woman who sees the need and does the deed.This is why all great stories begin with “One upon a time, in a magical place.”

©2010, Forrest Craver

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Man becomes great exactly in the degree to which he works for the welfare
of his fellow man. - Mahatma Gandhi

Forrest Craver has been doing men’s work for more than 20 years. He was senior interviewer for Wingspan: Journal of the Male Spirit for many years. He has led or co-led more than 40 retreats or workshops for men including The Mankind Project, Men in Recovery, and regional clergy retreats for United Methodist and ELCA denominations. He is a lawyer and a nationally recognized fundraising consultant for nonprofit groups. He is the author of a short book of Spiritual Poetry entitled “This Well Has No Bottom” and is finishing a book about intergenerational breakthrough approaches for boys and men in American culture. His websites are cravercreativeservices.com/and transitioncolorado.ning.com/profile/forrestcraver or eMail.He lives and works in the Denver metro area.

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