Lately a lot of chatter on social media has focused on distraction. (Which is pretty ironic considering how distracting social media is to most of us!)
People are saying don't pay attention to that issue, the real problem is over here. Or, while people were busy reacting to that news, this much more important thing happened. For years, we have grown accustomed to the concept that social capital is a finite resource, so if too much is spent in one area, there will not be enough left over for other needs.
What if this way of thinking is just... wrong?
Sure, there is no unlimited supply of money in the world. Like the really big bag of holiday M&Ms, eventually we can reach the bottom of the treasury.
But it takes more to solve problems than money. It takes ideas. It takes conversations. It takes a bunch of different people considering the problem from every possible point of view. (And, when I'm deep in problem-solving mode, it takes M&Ms.)
Those resources are far more abundant, and with new faces joining the dialogue either on-line or in real-life spaces, our social capital reserves grow deeper by the minute.
What will sap those resources faster than we can replenish them, though, is a constant state of scolding. When someone is new to the community-building world, we risk losing them forever if the first message they hear is "your thing isn't the Really Important Thing, but you can sit over there and wait for us to tell you what matters."
First of all, what if we never knew about "their thing" because the folks most impacted never had a chance to get involved? What if "their thing" really IS the Really Important Thing? We have to be aware of our blind spots and fallibility, even after years at the table.
What's more likely, though, is that there is never going to be one Really Important Thing. Do you want to live in a society with a working economy, safe neighborhoods, high quality schools, clean water, and robust arts offerings filled with healthy, loved citizens leading dignified lives from cradle to grave? Then get to work on your Really Important Thing and support (in every way you reasonably can) the people around you working on theirs.
(Don't forget to bring the M&Ms. To me. Please.)