“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Part of the serendipity in visiting my Mom in a nursing home is that I never know who I may encounter there. Just this week, I talked to a woman I’d known more than thirty years ago in Dundas, and ran into someone else named Trudy, who I hadn’t seen in nearly fifty years. It instantly took me back to childhood: our family would visit their Hamilton city home, and her family would visit us on the farm, an opportunity to view the best of both worlds. In both these cases, it was amazing that we could re-connect based on our belonging to a small group of people years ago.
We tend to under-estimate the scale of our connections. Many organizations, including churches, are struggling to survive. We feel that we don’t make much difference with our little group and small contributions, forgetting that one kindness can have the effect of generating another. If we make a difference to two people, and they in turn extend kindness to another two, the growth is exponential.
Maintaining relationships within a small group is easier. The Rule of 150 was coined by British Anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, and is defined as the “suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships and thus numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group.”
While not everyone can be close friends, its amazing how the people who fill the gap in times of need are within the periphery of this 150-member circle. A small group has an astonishing potential in the number of possible one-to-one connections. There’s a fascinating mathematics in the following formula: if k stands for the number of people in a group, and x stands for number of pairs, here is the calculation for how many possible relationship pairs you can have in a group of 150 people:
k (k-1)/2 = x or 150(150-1)/2 = 11,175 pairs!
We are so often impressed by powerful and showy actions, but it is actually the often hidden and small acts of kindness and love between people that can produce the changes this world so badly needs.
“For not with swords’ loud clashing
Or roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy
The heavenly kingdom comes.”
Nancy Smart, Ernest W. Shurtleff