Good Trouble in 2021
by Peter Comrie
One of the most meaningful quotes I have ever heard is from the late John Lewis. He was a civil rights activist in the United States, a politician that served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, a key leader in the 1963 March on Washington, and one of many beaten by police in the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery where he suffered a skull fracture.
John Lewis died on July 17, 2020, from pancreatic cancer. His life couldn’t possibly be contained in a few sentences, and I won’t even try. But one of the many things he left for me—for all of us—is this quote:
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. -John Lewis 1940-2020
If you and I were talking in person right now, we’d quietly sit with that quote for a bit.
The first two sentences are so very appropriate as we go into 2021. It’s so easy to look back on all we’ve lost, and to look forward without hope. In my life, I’ve lost my youngest son, had businesses fail, experienced divorce, seen too many lovely people die way before their time… I could go on. But I refuse to get lost in a sea of despair. I choose hope! I choose optimism!
Yes, there will be struggles for my entire life, although I don’t feel at all like my struggles compare to the struggles of the civil rights movement. John Lewis lived in those every day of his life, and he dedicated his life to fighting them. I can most certainly commit my life to the fights that I personally believe in.
But it’s that last line of John’s quote that absolutely inspires me as I look forward to a new year. I pray that it inspires you, too.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make some noise. Don’t be afraid to make some noise and get into good trouble.
What could ‘good trouble’ possibly mean for an old white guy like me, living in a safe, gorgeous area of a wonderful country surrounded by kind, good people?
What does ‘good trouble’ mean for any of us?
It means showing kindness in the face of unkindness.
It means stepping into someone else’s righteous fight and fighting with them.
It means making public, vocal statements to distance ourselves and our businesses from things that aren’t right, or aren’t fair, or things that could harm people or our planet.
It means insisting that our leaders make the right choices—and follow through with them. If you’re a leader, it means doing what is right.
It means sharing truth, dispelling misinformation, and applying self-control and intelligent thought when someone says, ‘I disagree’.
Folks, we’ve only got the time we have on this planet. We are not renewable resources! But we can get ourselves into enough good trouble that our legacy lives on past these old bodies. I couldn’t even begin to measure the impact John Lewis has had and will continue to have. It’s my honour to do what I can and get into some good trouble of my own.
Please join me in some good trouble making in 2021!