The very definition of ‘cool’ is what we were taught to aspire to when we were young: nonchalant, uncommitted, critical.
You know why I think that is? So we didn’t get mocked or hurt for caring. Whether it was personal pronouns or musicals or badminton or the rights of minorities or obscure 20th Century Japanese pottery or the engineering of traffic lights or World of Warcraft, it was cooler not to care.
Don’t stand up – you’ll get cut down too easily. Everyone who’s been bullied knows this. In New Zealand, we call it Tall Poppy Syndrome, and it’s a real problem.
If we were lucky, we found a safe space to foster our passions, away from the pointing and sniggering.
And as we got older, we learned that not only is it OK to care, but others care about strange and wonderful things too. Our friends wrote poetry, were obsessed with baking the best loaf of bread, or just really wanted to study to be an orthodontist.
And now? The coolest people I know are singing from the rooftops about their coaching skills, the not-for-profit they started, their unwavering belief that a small, committed group of people can change the world or their love of climbing. They’re sharing their passion with others.
Care is what turns a follower into a leader.
Passion is a spark. Passion is what gets both you and other people excited.
Excitement can ignite others to action.
Giving a damn, putting your money where your mouth is, being the change you wish to see – this is the hard mahi (work).
You can’t keep your cards close to your chest when you care.
That’s not to say that your actions have to be grand. Is it true that the more people you try and reach, the less effective you become…?
I look at the lady who busses in from Sumner every Tuesday afternoon to check the invoices and clean the kitchen at Ronald McDonald House South Island – she’s been coming for 15 years. The old man stooped down, chatting to a homeless guy on Hereford Street, as I bike home. Ginny, who wanted to make sure that when the bodies were released for burial from the Christchurch Mosque Shooting, she’d be ready to honour them with bouquets and floral tributes. The lady who posted Hone Tuwhare’s poem Rain over white supremacist posters in Auckland.
The clichéd but relevant starfish story comes to mind.
No-one can guarantee you’ll be successful. If your passion has the chance to change how democracy works or just your best friend’s purchasing habits, it also has the chance to fail.
If you really want it, you have to stand up and talk about it.
If you don’t risk being rejected, people will never know what they could get behind, either.
If you don’t try, it’s a definite no.