Heather Cox Richardson in 2016.
Heather Cox Richardson in 2016. Peter Stevens / Creative Commons. 

I am a huge fan of Heather Cox Richardson. If you are unac­quaint­ed with her work, I implore you to go to her Facebook page and check her out. (After you read this, of course.) 

Ms. Richardson is an aca­d­e­m­ic and a his­to­ri­an. But most of her 1.5 mil­lion Facebook fol­low­ers know her as a spe­cial kind of his­to­ri­an: she writes dai­ly syn­opses of cur­rent events in a way that is thor­ough and insight­ful, yet con­cise enough to absorb in a few min­utes of read­ing. They read like pas­sages from a future his­to­ry book. Which is what you would expect from a his­to­ri­an, I guess. 

On March 4th, she wrote the fol­low­ing, which I copied into my jour­nal for future reference. 

Every day, peo­ple write to me and say they feel help­less to change the direc­tion of our future. I always answer that we change the future by chang­ing the way peo­ple think, and that we change the way peo­ple think by chang­ing the way we talk about things. To that end, I have encour­aged peo­ple to speak up about what they think is impor­tant, to take up oxy­gen that oth­er­wise feeds the hatred and divi­sion that have had far too much influ­ence in our coun­try of late.

It’s so easy to feel over­whelmed by the enor­mi­ty of the chal­lenges fac­ing America and the world today. I don’t need to begin list­ing the litany of those chal­lenges, from a two-year-old pan­dem­ic to the trav­es­ty of the Russian war against Ukraine to the unsta­ble con­di­tion of our own democracy. 

In the face of such vex­ing obsta­cles, it’s tempt­ing to feel as though there is noth­ing one indi­vid­ual can do. I often feel over­whelmed at it all. I’m sure most of us do. 

Sure, there are peo­ple with a great deal of influ­ence, who can exert some degree of con­trol over huge events. People with mon­ey, pow­er, and influ­ence are in posi­tions to do some­thing, to vary­ing degrees. 

I pre­sume no one read­ing this has such influ­ence over events at the inter­na­tion­al or nation­al lev­el. I’m tak­ing the leap of faith in assum­ing that you — like me — influ­ence no more than a hand­ful of peo­ple on a reg­u­lar basis. And that those peo­ple them­selves have lit­tle influence.

Hence, our despair­ing with­draw­al into inaction. 

So when I read the quote above, it stirred some­thing in me. Even though Ms. Richardson has a dai­ly audi­ence of poten­tial­ly over one mil­lion peo­ple, she rec­og­nizes that almost none of her read­ers has that kind of influ­ence. Yet, she insists, they are not pow­er­less. We are not powerless. 

I’m not sure how strongly–if at all–I believe that. But I need some­thing to anchor myself in these tur­bu­lent times. Something to make me feel I can affect change, if only on a minute scale. 

WinCity is still a very small oper­a­tion. Perhaps a hun­dred peo­ple will read this. But that’s one hun­dred more who would hear my thoughts on a top­ic than would if I did­n’t write. What if I were able to change the mind of just one per­son on some impor­tant issue? “Big whoop,” right?

Now here comes the fun part. What if that one per­son were able to change the mind of one oth­er per­son, or two? And what if each of those were able to do the same? Are you get­ting the picture? 

“But wait,” you protest. “I don’t write for a web­site. I don’t have a blog. I don’t have any means to reach one hun­dred people.” 

But maybe you do. 

Are you on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Tic Tok? LinkedIn? Do you have 100 fol­low­ers? I think you see where I’m going with this. I don’t have to draw you a picture. 

But what if you aren’t on social media at all? Well, good for you. But you do have friends, don’t you? Neighbors? Coworkers? People at your place of wor­ship or school or fra­ter­nal organization? 

I’d con­sid­er it a safe bet that one face-to-face con­ver­sa­tion with a trust­ed friend is worth one hun­dred page views from some­body with a blog. 

So if you’re feel­ing help­less about the future of our com­mu­ni­ty, our nation, our world — say some­thing. Share with some­one how you’d like to change the world. You nev­er know the impact it may have. 

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.