Growing up in a working class town to immigrant parents, I found myself in the same kinds of mischief common to young boys the world over. And like many children, I was adept at justifying my actions whenever I was caught. Particularly in cases where I felt I was the victim, I rivaled a defense attorney in my protestations of innocence.
No matter what the situation or circumstances, my mother would respond with a phrase that has been etched in my consciousness,
“It takes two hands to clap.”
It sounds much more poetic in her native language, but I think the English captures the sentiment (although I can clap with one hand…sorry Mum!).
This phrase was not heartless. It did not invalidate my experience or ignore my feelings. It pointed out that all of those things were but one hand. The other hand was mine — my reaction, my thought patterns and behaviours.
With this small sentence my mother taught me a valuable lesson. In every situation I am also a factor. What I didn’t know then is that my mother was a heartivist. In her own simple way she was illustrating that while pointing the finger out at the world and those within it, there was also a necessity in pointing inward.
There is no meaningful activism, no lasting social change that can be accomplished without self-reflection. So often, we harbor within ourselves the very things we dislike and want to change in others. To anyone who wants to improve the world, I say: start with yourself. It is only from this vantage point that you will be able to truly serve, and inspire others to do the same.
If ever more of us commit to self and collective evolution, perhaps one day soon the two hands will clap to applaud a world we are proud of.