Marching together.

Armies Do Things – So What About This One?

Marching together.

A few months ago, my wife made a comment that changed the way I see and think about this website. Such comments are usually not extraordinary in themselves, but said at the right time, can blow you away. They neatly summarize the progression of your thought, leaving you feeling like everything makes sense all of a sudden.

At least, that’s how this comment felt.

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website
made of people
learning, loving, living
a center of community
army

I’ve been thinking about my dreams for this website lately. Where do I want to lead it? How do I best use my writing and stories to help people?

As I seek to answer those questions, community is a word I keep returning to. Connecting people through my work is important – especially if the connections go beyond the online space.

I chose the name Bright Army in part because it implies community. An army is not just one person with a cause, but rather a group of people working together. While my writing is a major component, I want this website to be more than that.

***

action
so valuable
taking initiative
to touch the heart through something new
trial

“Armies do things.”

My wife’s statement is simple. But it’s stuck with me. It speaks to a major piece of my dreams for the Bright Army – a dream I haven’t done as much with as I would like.

I have much to offer in telling stories and sharing what I learn from my experiences – and I will continue to do so. But at some point, action is necessary.

Action drives change. Taking time to reflect and contemplate is valuable – and can help you see the world differently. But by itself, thought is not enough. It needs to have its roots in action.

Not all action is the same though. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing all along, nothing will change. You have to step beyond your current patterns.

Yet action can be difficult. It demands energy. It requires you to overcome the inertia embedded in your present way of doing things. And since it’s something you’ve never done before, it pushes you to face uncertainty.

One way to counter that difficulty is with small experiments.

***

greeting
a soft hello
offered to another
who you may often leave alone
kindness

Living in Chicago, I often pass people asking me for money. My tendency, as I discovered recently, is to ignore them or brush them off.

To change my default reaction, and avoid disrespecting the other person, I began an experiment. Instead of saying “No” or ignoring them, I try to initiate the interaction with a greeting – even if it’s nothing more than a smile.

While I consider this experiment ongoing, I’ve learned a couple things so far:

Recognition of another person is a gift itself. True, it doesn’t meet their physical need, but they, like us, have a desire to be acknowledged.

Every person is a person. We’re not so different from each other. I knew this before the experiment, but intentionally engaging with people reinforced the idea.

Maybe this will turn into a habit, a default way of interacting with those asking for money on the street corner. Perhaps it will lead to a different experiment. Either way, I’m learning.

***

testing
short and simple
to question and explore
a small shift in your perspective
missions

Such experiments are powerful for several reasons.

They have a defined time limit – two to four weeks works well. If you were to try to do them indefinitely, you may feel trapped. It’s also easier to commit to doing an activity for a set period of time. It helps you push through the challenging stretches.

The action is simple. It doesn’t require lots of effort or disrupt your daily routine. Too big, and you won’t do anything. And that would defeat the point of the experiment.

The action is specific. You know what to do. You can focus your attention on the experiment and what you’re learning instead of figuring out what steps to take.

It’s easy to pick up the experiment if you miss a day. You give yourself grace and move forward.

They’re repetitive. Doing an action once can be interesting, but doing it over and over ingrains the lessons.

Finally, they are different from your regular activities. They deliberately push you to break your patterns, opening you to evaluate assumptions about your life and view of others.

I’ve witnessed the effectiveness of such experiments on an individual level – in my life – but what if they were done in community? What if a group of people did them at the same time and shared what they were learning with each other? How much deeper would we live out our shared humanity?

Will you join me in finding out?

Starting today, we’ll run a mission per month, exploring one element of living a life of humanity. We’ll test assumptions and mindsets. We’ll examine how we treat and interact with others. And hopefully, we’ll have fun along the way.

Note: If you have an idea for a mission, leave a comment below.

Participate in the action. Post your thoughts, observations, stories, and questions in the comments of the mission page.

At the end of each month, I’ll combine your reflections with mine – since I’ll be doing the missions too – and write them up in a post.

***

I have to be honest with you. I don’t know how this will work out – though if I did, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing. Some missions may prove beneficial, and others may not. Maybe no one will join me. But it’s OK. This is, after all, an experiment.

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PHOTO: Marching together. South Africa.

Mission 01: The Zulu greeting, sawubona, translates to “I see you.” It recognizes the other person’s existence. How many people do we pass each day without seeing or acknowledging? What if we were to “see them”? … (Read More).

9 thoughts on “Armies Do Things – So What About This One?”

  1. This is a timely one. mission are very effective but tough. Tough communities need tough missions like this one. The mission giver knows the way then we follow. God know the way.

  2. Great insight and idea Joshua. That’s just what we need to do, something small, but different enough to make us think.

    How to increase your humanity. Isn’t that something everyone should work on?

  3. Sawubona Joshua,

    I see you and also hear you.

    Thanks for looking at life in a deeper way. I am going to start smiling at the numerous beggars that I see through my car window at a particular stopping area in Nairobi. I am not allowed to roll down the window but I can acknowledge them.

    JUDY

  4. Judy, I like how you found a way to make it work for your situation. And even though you can’t roll the window down, you can at least acknowledge their existence.

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