I came across a quote today by Myles
Horton, the great founder of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee,
which trained Rosa Parks and so many other heroes of the labor and civil
rights movements. Horton said that he had learned from decades of nonviolent
struggle against injustice that "the way to do something
was to start doing it and learn from it."
I recognize the limitations to this approach. It’s good to have a "strategic
plan" with goals and methods all arranged in proper order. Yet
often in civic work, improvisation is both a necessity and an inspiration.
As long as you keep your mind open, listen to others, and try to learn
from everything you do, it’s sometimes wise to start working even before
you know exactly what you are doing.
I write this as I continue to read articles about local geography and
its effects on nutrition—all because I want to obtain a grant
that can support our local work with kids.
I don’t know where that work will take us, but it seems important to
sustain a nascent institution by grasping the opportunities that come
along. (I don’t mean to compare myself and my colleagues to Miles Horton,
because we’re not struggling against injustice as he did. But we do
have a similarly cavalier attitude toward planning.)