—Miranda Williams, National Vice President, JCI USA
When I was a little girl, I can remember watching TV with my Grandma. I probably only remember this so well, because it was a TV in an old wooden cabinet, and I was the remote control. She would have me turn the dial, set the antennas, and sometimes hold the antenna so she had a better signal, in order to watch Wheel of Fortune. Afterwards, we’d watch the news together. I remember seeing footage of a riot, and how many people had been injured. I remember asking my Grandma, “Why doesn’t someone do something to stop that?” She told me “You can’t change the world, sweetie. We’re just outnumbered.”
It wasn’t until years later that I fully understood what my Grandmother meant by that statement. My Grandmother had been a part of some pretty terrible times in her life. She was born in the ’20s, so she lived through the Great Depression, She saw her parents go without so that she and her sisters could eat. In the 40’s, she met my Grandfather and he was drafted into the Second World War. She had to live with a soldier that woke up in the middle of the night with night terrors—of horrible things he witnessed—if he could even sleep at all. In the 60’s, she was an activist for people without a voice during the Jim Crow era. She lost her job and was considered non-hirable by most local businesses just for helping register someone to vote—a right she didn’t even have at the time. In the 70’s, she fought for women’s rights. By the 80’s, she was tired, too tired to hold the antenna and watch Wheel of fortune.
You see, Grandma wasn’t trying to discourage me from trying to change the world. She just knew I couldn’t do it alone. As I grew up, I saw more and more mistreatment and ugly in the world. This made my passion to change the world even stronger. Then, I had my daughter. At that moment, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and WANT to change the world anymore, I had to become active in the community and TRY to change the world. She was the bright light in the world of ugly. A better future for her, is what I needed to ignite my passion.
I started looking for ways to get involved. A quick google search led me to Henry Geissenbier. I was instantly inspired. This young man had the same vision as I had. He also knew he was outnumbered, but still started a movement, One he probably never imagined going global and changing the world. At the end of my first Jaycee meeting—as I watched fellow members recite the creed—I heard them passionately chant the last line, “...service to humanity, is the best work of life.” I knew at that moment, the search was over, I had found my group. The group that was going to help me change the world.
Through the Jaycees, I have met some of the most inspiring, wonderful people. One that stands out the most is my friend Chris. I met Chris at my first National Convention. He introduced himself with a giant smile and a friendly hug. He had this big personality that lights up the room and an even bigger heart. Do you remember the Care Bears? They would all stand there and do the Care Bear Stare, where a light shines from their bellies and they defeat evil? If you could physically see the positivity emitting from Chris, I imagine that is what it would look like.
Funny story, Chris accidentally started a t-shirt campaign. I say accidentally, because he only intended to print 6 shirts. He happened to post it on Facebook, and now has sold over 300 shirts. But these t-shirts simply say, “Be a Decent Human.” A pretty simple message, but wow, how powerful can four words be? Be a Decent Human.
The first time I wore my shirt, I noticed people acted differently, I went to the grocery store, people held doors for me, I smiled at people, said hello, they smiled and said hello back. I even had a gentleman carry a case of water for me to my car. People asked. "How are you?" and seemed to sincerely mean it. I wore the shirt with pride that day. It made me feel better—empowered and out to be a decent human that day. At the end of the day, I sat and thought about all the positive things that had happened and the message on my t-shirt. That’s when I started to wonder... were people really being that much more kind? Or was I taking the time to receive someone's kindness and go out of the way to be kind to them? Of all the projects I’ve seen in my Jaycee career, this is one of my favorites, because it’s taking the passion and positivity from the human Care Bear and giving it to everyone we encounter when we wear it.
My Grandma may have been right. I can’t change the world... because I’m outnumbered. However, I now believe, I can change SOMEONE’S world because I’m a Jaycee.