“OK get ready New York!!!” shouts an older African American gentleman on the uptown 1 subway in New York City. He’s dressed in perfectly-pressed ivory linen pants and a neat white collared shirt.
And then he bursts into song, belting out, “This little light of mine…” in a voice that could only be described as angelic. It deserves a full Gospel Choir behind it. Barring that, his partner singing harmony was pretty incredible.
Along with just a few of my fellow-passengers, I smile, I enjoy, I give him a dollar. I get a nod and a nice fist bump in return.
On my next subway ride, a white guy in a suit looks at me quizzically and says, “I thought you were part of the group…on that last train, I mean.”
I told him I wasn’t, that I just liked the music and thought it was gutsy to perform in that way and put yourself on the line. I couldn’t tell if he was satisfied or confused by my answer.
But I did think it was interesting that just by smiling and enjoying myself, I might be confused for the third member of the group. Because, of course, being the first, second or third person to stand up and follow enthusiastically can have just as much impact as being the guy standing up and singing.
Leading courageously and following with conviction are both needed to make change.