Big thinking can lead to even bigger doing
By DANIEL GRISWOLD
Published Monday, December 27, 2010
At a recent youth ministry convention in Nashville, I had the opportunity to attend a small group led by a man I had never met before, Shaun King. I went to hear King’s talk on how social media can change the world. I was interested in hearing more about this topic because I see Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and other similar sites as potential resources for ministry.
Our youth group, for example, has its own page on Facebook and a profile on Twitter. I wanted to find out how we could use these sites for the greater good. Instead of simply learning, though, I became inspired by King’s stories. What struck me most wasn’t just that he had started the site http://www.twitchange.com, which used celebrity endorsements to raise money to purchase tents for people in Haiti, or that he has raised tons of money for causes in urban Atlanta — both of which are awesome achievements, of course; it was his almost pathological ability to think BIG that blew me away the most.
Big ideas, regardless of practicality or available resources, have the potential to change the world. Without big ideas, we wouldn’t have mass distribution or massive poverty relief agencies like World Vision. Shaun King, like other big thinkers, basically asks, “What is the need?” and then begins the process of coming up with unique and creative ways to provide for that need. As humanity becomes more globally aware, big dreams become more and more necessary, and we need to talk about how these ideas come about.
Big ideas often start in small places. There was a time when the billionaires behind the computer revolution were garage hobbyists on the fringe of mainstream ideas. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were once eccentrics with a vision for something new — and their dreams are what fuel our “Tron”-like lifestyles. Because of big thinkers like them (and electrons), grandparents can talk to their progeny across the world through Skype and Facebook.
Big ideas come from unexpected places. Plato’s “Myth of Metals” speaks about how everyone has a sort of metal mixed in their soul. Some, fit for ruling, are mixed with gold. Others, the warriors, are mixed with silver; and the last, the producers, are mixed with iron or bronze. The philosopher pointed out that no one knows which metal a person has until they have been observed. While the myth seems classist, it is quite revolutionary in ancient paternal societies, in that it emphasizes the potential of every person to prove his or her worth by quality and merit. The takeaway is that the lowliest person, even those living in abject poverty with no attributed merit or rank, can rise above and bring about the transformation of the immediate community, and, through time, the entire world.
A final thought on big ideas: All big ideas mean sacrifice. If something is worth anything to a person, it has to become a passion to spread to others. When changers of the future tell stories, you hear in their voices that they have given up much for what they believe in. I sometimes wonder how the president feels when he wakes up and realizes he can’t play with his daughters as often as he likes because he has to build relations in Asia. And I’m going to guess Shaun King would probably like to spend more time with his wife, but tents need to find their way to Haiti. In the gospel of Luke 14:33, Jesus says, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” If that seems tough, one must ask, “Do I believe in the cause?”
Missionaries and aid workers around the globe sleep in bags rather than on a mattress in solidarity with those they care about. And from sacrifice, wells are built, food is delivered and young people are educated. All these things help build a foundation for a better world for future generations. At last we ask ourselves: What are the Big Ideas for us? Who will dream them up? And how much are we willing to sacrifice in order to transform the world?
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church.
Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.