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If I hear the word change one more time, I think I am going to scream! On the political scene, it has been the buzz for months.
Each candidate in turn, from national to local, has grabbed the word, held it tightly, and squeezed the life out of it.
Each has questioned the ability of the other to promote change. Each has tested the validity of change itself. Each has threatened to explore change at the price of stability and pronounced change as the answer to all ills.
On the cusp of electing a new president, change is electrifying the air.
Certainly, change is not a bad thing. Without it, caterpillars would not become butterflies, the seasons would come and go without notice, children would never acquire the wisdom gleaned from experience, elders would be confined to the original, non-reflective naiveté of youth.
Life would be routine if not monotonous. Bereft of vitality, it could only qualify as existence.
Our 92 year-old neighbor phrased it succinctly when I asked him about his particularly early bedtime.
“I get tired of looking at myself in the mirror. I get bored with myself.”
He was begging for some kind of change in his life, even if it only meant a choosing a different time to call it a day.
But change simply for the sake of change is frightening.
Webster’s dictionary is a helpful tool to use in the process of sorting out the reality of change.
It puts forth a variety of applications from a simple exchange of one thing for another, a substitution or replacement to profound conversion and transformation that involves a difference rooted in form and function.
Obviously, terms need to be clarified for communication to be complete. One cannot speak of change as in a change of clothes and pretend that it is deeply transformative.
Nor can it be said that conversion has occurred when it is only an external difference. Change cannot simply be a buzzword, but we can buzz about the word change until it is mutually understood.
There is a connection with divinity when positive change occurs. God changed chaos into order, separated darkness from light; land from water. God changed the barren earth to a place of fertile vegetation.
God changed the exclusivity of divinity, creating humankind in God’s own image to share it. And God saw the change as good, as transformative, as a new beginning.
Change is not a buzzword for God. It is the way in which divinity is revealed, the way in which creativity is fostered, the way that life is dynamic. Change, if it is true and good, is the outward sign of inner transformation.
It is astoundingly awesome. It is also scary.
We may shout change and write it on placards to wave above a fretful crowd. We may demand it and command it, desire it and loathe it, simultaneously. But it is nothing if we do not take it to heart and ponder the questions that emerge.
From what and to what are we moving? Where is the good in the status quo? How will change make it better? Who is the best agent for the process?
And, hardest of all, what will it cost? What price must be paid, in time, energy, talents, to say nothing of finances?
Will the change evoke a deeper godliness or will it be a catalyst to our lording it over others? Is it window dressing or a smokescreen that prevents us from looking deeply at ourselves and our world?
Is the change simply a minor alteration that will only lead to altercation and not to the peace that promotes justice?
Change is fearsome in its challenge. It means that our present world will be jostled. Things familiar might be replaced, or differently placed.
We’ll need to adjust and readjust our position and perspective on life. We’ll need to stop complaining and start contemplating. We’ll need to enter the process and not simply wait for someone else to do the repair work.
Change is exciting for all the same reasons. There is a buzz in the air that sings of newness, rebirth and creative opportunities. This is the optimistically generative quality that comes with change.
It’s a battery charging chance that gives old folks a new lease on life and fosters in young folks faith that all is not over yet.
It is the bittersweet emotion felt by parents when their offspring move from being infants to toddlers, toddlers to preschoolers and onward to high school and college graduation–and beyond.
Eager for the change to occur, there is also the anxiety that it means departures and new arrivals, loss and gain, additions to knowledge and subtractions of need. With each waning and waxing of growth’s tidal waves, we hold tightly and let loose.
The action tears at our need for control and releases a freedom that embraces both parent and child. It exchanges boundaries for limitless horizons. It concretizes memories of long ago and far away while it creates new ones, not as replacements, but as additions.
I began with a shriek at the very sound of the word change. I began with a sense of its annoying presence, a sense that it was nothing more than a slogan to imprint mindlessly on people who were becoming both agitated and depressed over the present economic and politic scene, who were feeling powerless in the face of world atrocity.
Then I took a second look. I reminded myself so I could remind others that change is not a buzzword. But change is a word to buzz about.
It is a word to take seriously, to make happen, so that goodness will overcome evil, wisdom will supplant knowledge, and love will conquer all.
From the beginning, at day’s end, like God, I looked again and saw the value and wonder of inspired change. I saw the divine inbreath of goodness transforming the world. I dared to empower its occurrence. And I believed in its potency.
Without change, there is nothing new to master. With frivolous change, the newness is nothing but disaster.
For me, that’s the real buzz about change.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master's degree in theology and is the author of, “AWAKENING TO GOD: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of scriptural meditations],” leadchaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.