People often become demoralized when they are faced with enormous problems. In their eyes, the obstacles may seem so overwhelming that they give up and do nothing.
This can true about all types of issues, including global warming (“it won’t matter what I do so I won’t do anything”), politics (“these people are going to keep fighting no matter what I do and my vote doesn’t matter”), and interfaith relations (“the religions of the world have been at odds for millennia… how can I do anything to change that?”).
Whether the internal arguments against doing something are identical to the ones described above or are entirely different the outcome is the same. No action is taken.
And yet, doing nothing is also doing something.
Good people who sit on the sidelines are also contributing to the problems we face. Who knows what the outcome would be if they did what they could with what they have where they are? In the same way that compound interest generates exponential growth if money is invested for long enough, compound actions make a difference.
An Achievable Vision
We have found that when people feel overwhelmed, they need an achievable vision—a feeling that what they are doing means something and contributes to the overall solution in some small way.
In my new book, Co-Human Harmony, I offer such a vision:
“According to sociologists, the average human being has the ability to truly connect with somewhere between 40-120 people [200 max.]. Within this core group are friends, co-workers, family members, and others that the person feels he or she can trust. We are not talking about the thousands of social media connections that some people have, rather the people that they turn to in times of need.
Now, imagine one or two willing and able bridge-builders within every such group, people who serve as mediators and peacemakers, who seek harmony rather than acrimony, and who are comfortable with being around others that don’t believe or look as they do. Those one or two people could work openly towards harmony from within the group.
One or two people per group.
That’s all it takes to influence group dynamics.
A participant in one of my workshops presented me with the perfect musical analogy to illustrate my vision. She regularly joins a group of people who play Irish folk songs, and they seldom use sheet music. Because everyone is welcome to join this ensemble, participants either learn the tunes on their own or pick them up from each other. It’s usually pretty chaotic. The insertion of one or two outstanding musicians can have two effects. If the musicians try to show off, then the whole group suffers and people either withdraw or struggle to keep up. If, however, the musicians are patient and supportive of the group, then everyone plays better. One or two qualified people can have a ripple effect that is measurable on everything from rhythm to tone.
I firmly believe that skilled bridge-builders, who are committed to social harmony, can have similar effects on the core groups that they belong to—groups where trust is already established. Furthermore, I believe that training one or two people per group is an achievable vision.
In the short-term, we, the willing, can commit to being better bridge-builders ourselves while gently and lovingly supporting a new rhythm and a more harmonious tone for the people who are within our sphere of influence. In the long-term, we can train others who are willing to do the same.
One or two people per group.
That’s all we need to make a real difference.”
[From Co-Human Harmony ©Gudjon Bergmann, 2019]
Do Small Things...
Many people erroneously think that big problems can only be solved with big solutions. While there is some truth to that, we must never discount the impact that people can have on others when trust is already established.
Here, at Harmony Interfaith Initiative, our goal is to assist those who want to bridge divides and work towards social harmony. We support everyone from interfaith and religious organizations to apartment building initiatives and community cleanups.
Some days, our mission seems not only daunting but impossible. When such feelings overwhelm us, we take a deep breath, put our heads down and keep working, mindful of the words of Mother Teresa, who said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
I urge you to keep doing small things with great love in your corner of the universe. Little by little, if all those who are willing do their part, the ripple effects of our actions will be felt far and wide.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Founder and Lead Educator at Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Author of Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides
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Our Vision and Primary Goals
We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We provide people with access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. We use the term interfaith broadly to mean 'a strong belief in someone or something' and focus on improving interrelations between people who have different worldviews. Our primary goals are to remind people of our shared humanity and to support new and ongoing efforts.
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©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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