Change can indeed be good

We were sitting in a conference room listening to a series of speakers.

It had been an interesting day. Unlike many seminars I had attended, I was looking forward to the remaining presentations. The next speaker was going to be discussing our ability to adapt to change in our lives and changes in the world in general.

He started speaking slowly, ambling his way through his remarks.

He started by stating that he had used the same barber for over 25 years. He graduated from the same school system where he had started kindergarten. He and his wife had been married over 43 years. They lived on the same street where he grew up. Every Sunday morning, he attended the same church where his parents had taken him as a child.

Smiling, he said, “Yep. I’m a real champion for change.”

Whether we relish change in our lives or prefer the constancy of an unchanging environment, where little changes except the calendar, at some point things will change. It might be as insignificant as the day your trash is collected, or as life-changing … life-shattering … as the loss of a spouse, child, home or job.

Regardless, some level of change, either around us or within us, is inevitable.

Our baby granddaughter, Claire (better known around our house as Claire Bear) likes change. She is not quite two years old. She runs everywhere, but is just barely talking.

A few months ago, one of her first words was “Pappy.” That was special for me. Now, she’s calling everyone Pappy, which makes it a lot less special.

When Claire Bear is toddling around our house playing, there are times when we catch a whiff that means a change might be needed.

One time, I said, “Claire Bear. Come over here and let Pappy check your britches.” She turned her back to me and started walking backward with her little butt stuck out.

She kept backing and backing until she stood right in front of me. She was ready to be checked for a change.

Yep. Change was necessary. I wish change was always as easy as changing Little Claire Bear’s Pamper.

But, sometimes, change can be messy and quite often it’s difficult.

Change, even change that is necessary, is not always bad. It’s also not always good.

Rarely are people united in our need for change. Some folks will see a problem from one extreme; other will see it from the other extreme. Rarely do we get a good view of a problem when we observe it from an extreme, unbending, unyielding position.

Most situations that are measurable can be observed and graphed out like a bell curve. A bell curve is exactly what it sounds like — it looks like a bell sitting on a table, tapered on both ends and high in the middle.

Imaging giving 1,000 people the same difficult test on a subject that none of them know very much about. A few will get most of the questions right. A few will get most of the questions wrong. The great majority of people will be near the middle of the curve.

That’s where most people life their lives – near the middle of the bell curve.

It’s no secret that our country is divided. Politically and socially, there are people on the far left and on the far right of almost every issue.

I’m starting to think that dividing people by their party affiliation (Republican or Democrat) is a waste of time. Many Republicans may be very conservative on fiscal issues, but much more liberal on social issues. The same (or opposite) could be said about many Democrats.

At the extreme left are people who might easily describe themselves with communist terms like Marxist or Leninists. The extreme right of political and social issues is where the Neo-Nazis and KKK feel right at home.

Left and right is not a racial divide. Many Americans of color and white Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Most people, I hope, would agree that ALL lives matter.

Get the idea? Many Americans will never agree on anything. Some will stay on the edges of the bell-curve and never budge toward the large part of the curve where most people live in relative agreement.

On the major issues that face our country, it’s usually easy to determine who is right and who is wrong. Hate, segregation and violence are wrong. Peace, living the lessons we were taught in Sunday School, and living in harmony are good.

However, on many of the minor, almost insignificant, issues where we disagree with each other, it’s quite a bit like Claire Bear’s diaper.

When you take a closer look, you realize it’s all just a bunch of crap.

Clean it up and move on. That’s where real change is required. Be more flexible. Be willing to listen and accept a new point of view.

At least be willing to tolerate things that you might find slightly disagreeable.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist