The Swift Moment of Action


Sometimes, the particular needs and urgency of a moment line up, revealing that you are precisely the person called to act. Quickly and decisively. Swiftly, yet with wisdom. At times, with risk, but also, with sure conviction. Not necessarily alone, but yes, definitely you. In this situation, you are the one who must act.

I found myself reflecting upon this after my good friend and colleague Reid Hamilton did just that. Perhaps you remember this recent moment:

Dan Adamini, the GOP secretary in Marquette, Michigan, shocked many of us when he composed and then shared a horrific tweet. Addressing protests at UC Berkeley, he said, “Violent protestors who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery.”

This was an unquestionable call to violence against students, referring to the state violence unleashed at Kent State during the Vietnam War protests. The National Guard fired shots, and four people died. Mr. Adamini was not subtle. He mentions what ‘one bullet’ can do and addresses that possibility as a good outcome.

Sometimes, the particular needs and urgency of a moment line up, revealing that you are the precisely the person called to act.

That’s what Reid Hamilton did. Reid has served as the Chaplain at Canterbury House at the University of Michigan for the last thirteen years. And before coming to Ann Arbor, he was the rector at Christ Church, Kent. Reid has known the horror and impact of what happened at Kent State, and he lives right here in Michigan, working with our students.

He was the one to act. Certainly not alone, but yes, he needed to act.

Reid called me to ask if I could lead the events at Canterbury House over the weekend because he needed to jump in the car and head north. He drove seven hours and was in Dan Adamini’s office the very next work day. They had coffee together and talked. Their conversation was both personal and productive.

In response to this conversation and a larger groundswell of public outcry, Dan Adamini resigned shortly thereafter.

I know Reid very well. I have permission to write about this story, but I know he’s not seeking an outcome of personal attention. So instead, I want to call our attention to this: We each have an intersection of roles, life experiences, identities, local contexts, personal strengths, and causes that we hold with conviction. When these begin to intersect in a particular moment, we are the ones especially equipped to act. We must choose to do it.

This experience in Marquette caused me to think about this for myself as well. It’s a good idea to think about these things ahead of time. I invite all of us to ponder our own intersections.

Many people are becoming more active, both in the political sphere and in local contexts. While we want to stay aware and informed broadly, it’s important ro realize that none of us can be a point person for every single cause or concern. We simply aren’t equipped to do that, and we’ll get overwhelmed very quickly. But if we identify some causes or concerns that will serve as our primary sphere of action, we have a greater sense about our role. And we should remain connected with people who are active the other areas. We can partner and show up for their actions too. This is an important piece of organizational work.

What are your intersections? Here’s a helpful exercise: Yesterday, I wrote down 8 words in a circle. Some of them are causes, some are contexts, and some are particular abilities in which I specialize. I drew connecting lines between each word and every other word, pondering how this circle contains a particular sphere of action. It doesn’t mean I’m limited only to these, but it does mean I must be a primary actor here. I have to be willing to act at a moment’s notice.

Also, while I did this, I recognized the absolute privilege embedded in this exercise. Some among us don’t have choice about when and where they act. Some have to act because their quality of life and very survival is on the line. We should keep this in mind.

Those realities, in fact, are the points of urgency which call our action. So let’s think now about what we can uniquely bring.

Because sometimes, the particular needs and urgency of a moment line up, revealing that you are the precisely the person called to act.

Renee Roederer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s