“Let me drop everything and work on YOUR problem.”

I recently saw this written on a tin sign in a novelty store. It was on a wall next to another that read “I may be old but at least I got to see all the good bands,” flanked by one reading “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.”

While I’ll admit that last one may apply to me at times, I couldn’t help but think mostly about the first one.

What makes something “my problem” or “your problem,” especially when we think of the broader collective responsibilities we all have towards one another?

So often, I’ve heard someone utter the words “They ought to do something about that.” Always in these instances, I wonder who “they” are and what the “something” is that they need to do.

One thing I love about The Pollination Project is that our community is made up of people who decided they were “someone,” knowing that while they may not have been the cause of a problem, they can be part of a solution. Every day, we have the absolute honor and privilege of working with individuals who decided to make something THEIR problem.

If history has taught us anything, it’s the fallacy of thinking problems will be solved by an external force. Real change is only possible when rather than just pointing out the problem, someone is willing to take ownership of and, in the immortal words of Gandhi, “be the change” they wish to see in the world. This decision — to take ownership of the wellbeing of our communities, neighborhoods, and fellow citizens — is real power. I believe often individuals assume they must first have power to be a force for change; in practice, the opposite is true. True power is not found in what you can take. Real power lives in what you give.

To each and every person reading this, I tell you: let me drop everything and work on your problem; or, perhaps even more aptly, let me drop everything and work on our solutions. It would be an honor.

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