|Beautiful ice bubbles at Tunk Stream.|
Recently, my husband, Edwin Barkdoll, and I went ice skating on Tunk Stream and Downing Bog near our home in Maine. It had been a dream of ours to skate here: a wilderness we’ve canoed; a place we’ve seen otters and beavers and snapping turtles; a clear stream where green reeds sway under the water like hair in the current, mesmerizing us. And lucky for us, at long last, the conditions conspired to allow us to fulfill this dream.
It was glorious. We could see through the ice to the swaying reeds underneath. Here’s a short video Edwin made that will give you a sense of just how wondrous it was. The bubbles that
|More gorgeous ice bubbles over
the clear ice.
formed in the ice were outrageous. I was in heaven.
It wasn’t all bliss though. My foot went through ice twice, in places where it thinned and I wasn’t careful enough, and both my feet got soaked trudging through the snowy woods from the end of Tunk Stream to the beginning of Downing Bog about a quarter of a mile away. But skating at the remote Downing Bog, full of beaver lodges and muskrat mounds beckoned, so we persevered.
|Beaver lodge at Downing Bog.|
We got to Downing Bog, and the ice was terrible. Downing Bog had clearly been one of those ponds that had frozen prior to the big snow storm, and the ice was crunchy, bumpy, and full of skate-tripping cracks. Plus it was only 15 degrees with 20 mile per hour winds, and we would be skating directly into that wind. But we were here, and for all we knew the ice conditions might improve.
They did not.
|Yucky ice at Downing Bog.|
We pushed ahead anyway, into the harsh wind, over the bumpy, crunchy ice. It was tiring and not much fun. We set a goal: to get to a big white pine where the bog curved. We’d check on the ice around that curve and decide whether to continue. At the pine tree we saw patches of relatively smooth ice here and there, and so we continued, trying to get from one patch – however small – to the next. Eventually, though, tired and frustrated, I said to Edwin, “Maybe we should just turn back.”
Edwin replied, “We’ll probably never be here again. Let’s keep going.” And so we did.
Soon Edwin was tired and frustrated, and he stopped. As I approached him he said he thought we should head back. I skated right by, calling out, “We’ll probably never be here again!”
“Wise words!” he called back to me and resumed skating.
Before long I stopped again. “I really think we might as well turn around. This isn’t fun.”
“But we’re not there yet!” Edwin replied, meaning the end of Downing Bog, as he continued skating.
And so I continued too.
Soon enough Edwin stopped. He’d had it.
“But we’re not there yet!” I said, still skating. He laughed and joined me.
Finally, we could see the end of the bog, perhaps half a mile away. The ice was now completely, totally crappy. There were no smooth spots anywhere. I was sure Edwin would agree that we were done. After all, we could see the edge of the bog. Wasn’t that enough? I felt quite sure that we’d be in agreement and turn back. But Edwin encouraged me to continue to the point at which we couldn’t go any further.
Despite the wind, despite the miserable ice, we continued to the end.
So what does my long story have to do with you, with humane education, with changing the world?
As we skated back, now blessedly with the wind at our back, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the power of partnership to achieve a goal. Neither Edwin nor I would have made it to the end of Downing Bog without support from the other. We probably would not even have begun, but together we did it. We held each other’s dream of success when our own resolve faltered. We provided the boost to morale when it was needed. We were strong when the other was weak, and that strength was enough to carry us both.
There are many videos and stories out there about the power of one individual to make a difference, but the truth is that no one makes a difference without the support of others. Even the greatest leaders and changemakers didn’t succeed without the force of their team of supporters, their partners in action, their compatriots in vision.
As a humane educator, I often ask people what they want to achieve; what systems they want to change; what problems they want to solve. Today I want to ask a different series of questions:
Who can you work with to achieve your changemaking goals? Who can strengthen your resolve when you tire? And whose resolve can you strengthen when they tire? Find a partner on your path to creating a better world. Support each other. It will dramatically improve the likelihood of your success.
Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: “Solutionaries”
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach“
My TEDxYouth@BFS “Educating for Freedom”
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