When I was 15, I picked up a leaflet. It had no title, no name, no contact details. Nothing to indicate who’d written it, or why. I found it in a “radical library tent” at a demonstration. It was printed smudgily, on cheap, yellow paper.
It changed my world.
I’ve kept it ever since, come back to it, learned from it. The words hit me hard back then and I’ve dragged it around multiple house moves and journeys. It is that good.
I took it into one of my classes and the teacher handed it out to the students.
I work with the idea – the hope – that one of my offerings – writings, blogs, ebooks – could do that for just one person. I may not know them. I may never know how it changed them. Just as the author of that leaflet doesn’t know how it influenced me.
What we leave behind in this life is not money or possessions, but a living legacy: our change, our influence.
Here, for you, the words on that most beloved leaflet:
If you and I were together on the barricades – and my tea supplies were low but my hopes were high – then you my comrade, would matter so much to me that.
~ I would talk to you, rather than others about problems I had with you.
~ I would respect your right to think things, or hold beliefs, that I stopped thinking or holding 5 years ago (or might not think and hold until 5 years from now).
~ When I was scared, or possibly wrong, I would make a point of saying so, so you never had to wonder if you were smart enough, or well-read enough, or articulate or hard-core enough to be here.
~ If you ever criticised me, I would try to understand, and perhaps change a little in response, because you needed me to.~ If something needed doing, and I knew how to do it really well, but you wanted to learn, I’d let you.
~ If things went weird between us, I wouldn’t just decide not to work with you anymore, I’d try and sort it out.
~ I would not make statements beginning, ‘everyone thinks’ or ‘obviously’ in case you then didn’t bother to challenge my ideas.
~ When you talked, I’d listen to your words, rather than listen for a gap.
~ I’d look for the crisis or new experience that could make us into friends, rather than share them with all the friends I already had.
~ I’d look for the thing I could learn from you, rather than dismiss you for not learning from me.
~ When I was certain you were wrong, I’d still try for a moment what it would mean to me, my ideas or the situation if you were right.
~ I’d respect you and your choices and I’d tell you so. ~ I’d value you as a vital part of the world I was fighting for.
It makes such sense, doesn’t it? Will you join me in living these words?