We meet every July as a cohort of AGLN fellows from all around the world to put thought into action. Yes, we read and we talk, we laugh and lament, we advise and support; but above all, we gather to push. To push ourselves and each other to use what resources we have to take action. The 2016 theme pressed the question home: what am I doing to lead towards justice? The subtext for me, however, is always: is what I’m doing enough?

Back in 2006, I helped launch an effort that to-date has raised over $350 million to flight HIV/AIDS. That’s a big number, but in the early days of (RED), we spoke in terms of days and pennies. One Gap t-shirt bought 2 weeks of life for someone dying of a treatable, preventable disease.  Forty-three cents a day was the cost of keeping another human being alive.  We had a saying “there’s no such thing as small change”. Change — no matter the size — adds up.

We had another saying, “it’s not enough to support the idea of (RED), you have to do the (RED) thing — when shopping, purchase the (RED) option over the non-(RED). These items never cost more, but they did save lives.  

I had both these sayings echoing in my head as I sat down to write a poem for the closing of this year’s Resnick Aspen Action Forum. I wanted to express that worrying one’s efforts won’t be large enough should never be a deterrent or excuse for failing to step up. Right actions accumulate and they inspire and empower others to join. Another thought was that our busy minds overthink so much that it can be self-defeating. A poem is the perfect way to move someone out of the head and into the body. The more we lead by the heart, the farther we’ll go on the path to justice.

This is poem is for you.  

- Tamsin


Abacus of Right Action ( “The Aspen Poem” )

Here’s the lowdown on Heroism
How much easier it is when a monster
Tall on terrible legs starts swallowing ships
Or invaders swarm the village torches blazing
The reptile brain needn’t factor odds
When it’s our fate encircled by rabid dogs

Truth is     Brute
Instinct not Bravery
Authors most epic feats
Reason luxuriates in the labyrinthine
Multi-tined trajectories forking myriad probable paths
Auger of rabbit holes not moral math

Between I ponder and I do
Lies the fall
Logic struggles to compute
    Plight of strangers 
    Systemic flaw
    Inequity of existing law
Against our own catalogue of fears
Portion of comfort        

How much harder it is 
To bear the steady drip of human travail
Measuring mercy on a sliding scale
Mine versus yours
Ours versus theirs
Marooned and grasping

Safety ropes we don’t know how to throw
All I know    words     my tow line through time    
Try these: Grain by grain, branch by branch, being by being
History hails the grand campaign
But Nature moves in multiples
A ceaseless determined quiet shifting

And so, the lowdown on Doing : 1+1+1
    Grain by grain, branch by branch, being by being

In the ecology of action
Lies the leap
    Finch’s beak
    Peppered moth
    The moray eel’s extra jaw
Proof that behavioral alteration
Breeds new patterns

So forget finding an algorithm for just
How and when to change this world
Move a bead across the row 
    with those you love
            those you’ll never know

Consider your life            theirs

    Add a bead
            You    do     the math
Posted by Tamsin Smith on Aug 11, 2016 12:20 PM America/Denver