This past week I had the privilege to listen to some of our community’s younger residents through the Chamber of Commerce’s Teen Leadership Troy program. The program is designed to give students entering their senior year of High School an opportunity to learn more about different aspects of their community; government, non-profits, industry and more are covered during this program.
This year the program had thirty young people that were willing to cut their summer break off by one week to learn more about the place they call home. That in itself is pretty impressive.
In one activity, these students were broken down into groups and paired up with a couple of elected officials to hear their ideas about what are some of the good things about our community and what are somethings that could be improved.
One of the more interesting comments made by a student was a lament on things changing. It’s hard to summarize the eloquence of the young lady, but generally she said that people are just resistant to change. She said that there are folks that have new ideas and sometimes they hesitate to start a discussion since they have seen how some changes have been received.
It was an insightful comment and an idea that I can’t seem to get out of my mind.
Are people really hesitant to change? I really believe that the jury is still out on this question. There are plenty of changes that people would gladly appreciate and accept. Skinnier waistlines and fatter pocketbooks are probably changes that many people would gladly accept.
Perhaps it’s not change itself we are against, but something else.
In a stroke of dumb luck, the same day I talked to these young folks, I was looking for a video on YouTube and was encouraged to watch another video. This video was of a Major League Baseball manager getting thrown out of a game.
I wasn’t exactly clear what the manager was arguing; there wasn’t much intelligible in his profanity laced tirade, except one clear line. The manager clearly said to the umpire, “You gotta give us a chance!”
And there it was.
“You gotta give us a chance!” Somewhere in the manager’s mind his expectations were changed. He didn’t expect his workhorse starting pitcher to get thrown out. His values changed. He wasn’t interested in the rules of the game as much as he was interested in sticking up for his player.
Maybe that is where our reactions to change come from? We aren’t against change. We are more against having our expectations and our values challenged.
And who can blame us? If we have spent any appreciable time on this earth, we generally know what works and what doesn’t. Even if we don’t have this knowledge from first hand experience, we can always look on the experiences of others to teach us how to navigate this existence.
All those experiences we have gone through, both good and bad, have played a large role in creating who we are. It has created our expectations, it has created our values; we know the things we that get us excited, we know the things that we can have roll off our back.
The problem we run into, is that we aren’t always so good at articulating what these expectations or values are. It’s almost like these things are so deeply ingrained and hard wired into what we are, we almost can’t describe it. It’s like trying to think about our heart beating or our lungs breathing. We don’t think about those things, we just do them.
Maybe that young student wasn’t so much worried about how change is perceived. Perhaps she was. But, maybe, just maybe, she was challenging us to look at our own values and our own perceptions. What got us here may not be able to take us any farther.
There is always a possibility that there is a better way to do something. And maybe we have already found the best way to do that thing we are trying to improve.
In the end, we won’t know until we take time and think about it.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.