Why Bother?

Kim Bio.jpg

By Kim Hamilton, current Groundswell participant

We’ve just come through a crazy time in Canada as we watched in disbelief at Brexit in the UK and the that-which-will- (for now) go-unnamed situation in the US; as well as the potential assaults (to one degree or another) posed by encroachment in our North; along with additional transportation of heavy bitumen oil into our species-rich marine environments.

Still, these issues are mere drops in a bucket of sustainability calamities for us on the Mainland. There are obviously many more challenges locally and beyond, that require our attention such as climbing poverty rates, food security, missing women and the impacts related to marginalization of youth.

At the same time that all of these risk-filled wheels turn, I am investing intention and gaining insight about the positive impact social business can make in a community. However, it’s downright hard to stay hopeful just now.

This learning about how to create social change through developing a social enterprise, has been a sweet experience shared with like-minded others. I really enjoy being a round peg in a round hole and not having to feel embarrassed for the tender and fierce fear and hope I have, for people and the planet. Having an opportunity to have an impact on issues that really matter by creating a socially-focused business, is “td”.

Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve had this quiet but firm voice in my head asking why bother.

Why even try and invest myself in a social venture when it’s going to be nestled within tightly framed neo-liberal conditions anyway? I mean, what do we really hope to accomplish?

So, I’ve wrestled but couldn’t find a way to answer my own question.            

I didn’t want to bring my cohort down with a bunch of negative nay-saying, so I thought I’d go visit some people in the community who may have found some wisdom, to offer me as well as their own, quiet but firm voice.   

I asked why bother and got input from Rachel Malek, Youth Leader; Marcia Nozick CEO at EMBERS; Vancouver artist Rae Mate (happens to also be wife of Gabor Mate); and social anthropologist Julie Granhoj Christoffersen. (Read their full responses, the poems and quotes at the end of this post.)

Marcia Nozick reminded me that people are worth it; that we should never give up on people or give up on living because for example, through EMBERS, she has literally seen people come “back from the dead” to become hard working citizens and community members. She recommends we be on the look-out for miracles!

Rae Mate encouraged me to stay plugged in and to keep a practice that encourages balance during dark times-because there will always be dark times she said. I understood this to be a reminder that there were cycles to life and to social change; involving both favorable and challenging conditions. We just happen to be living with the latter.

Rae quoted the Buddha as saying: “three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth”; and offered a Leonard Cohen refrain that “love’s the only engine of survival”; along with her favorite poem by Rumi called Out Beyond Ideas suggesting we aren’t alone in these places that are hard to speak of. I liked being reminded I was not alone.

She also shared a couple of pieces by Pete Seeger to bolster my resolve: a snippet of a song phrase and a story recounted to his audience about the power of planting a seed: “Realize that little things lead to bigger things” said Seeger. “That’s what Seeds is all about… Some seeds fall in the pathway he said and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground and they grow and multiply a thousand fold.

Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?”  (had me thinking about the necessity for good soil and the systemic resilience in permaculture).

Rae reminded me that no matter how hard times can seem, the world always needs change makers.

Our resident Danish Anthropologist Julie asked me a question based on her experiences with other social entrepreneurs: that even placed up against the doubts one faces and the effort change takes, can we actually choose not to bother, given the purpose and empowerment that can follow?  

It was a good question that, along with these other gifts of insight and inspiration, helped to shift my thinking.

Finally, Rachel Malek pressed wellness into all the cold parts of me with her clear and articulate call to action:

These are dark days, as our world frozen in time frightens us, shocks us, and drives us indoors to our warm and familiar homes. We can still remember the days of celebration, when hope and change rose high above the horizon, illuminating the beauty of our collective potential. Now the light has passed and we find ourselves in the depth of despair. Cold, stuck, hopeless. It is so tempting to just hide from it all. And I do believe that could be the answer for now - bundle up and wait for it to pass. It will, I promise. While you are waiting, though, there is much to be done. This is the time to nourish, to rest, to build strength in body, mind and spirit in preparation for that which is to come. Because as the dark consumes, the light is reborn. It is our turn to be reborn, with more clarity, unity and resolve than ever before. It is our turn to lay the seeds for what will grow when this dark winter becomes but a cold and distant memory.

So, the Vancouver clouds and rain do what they do in November, social conditions are always in motion and the truth is, I can’t choose not to bother. Neither it seems, can the rest of the cohort at Groundswell.


To ask 'why bother?' is to raise an important question of morals and values. Through my encounters with people who seek to better the world through social ventures, I have seen that this is not an easy journey. It is filled with pain, doubts and big questions. But it is also a path that leads to beautiful moments of pride, purpose and empowerment. 

So allow me to propose a different question: Would you rather not bother? Can you?

Julie Granhoj Christoffersen; Social Anthropologist, Denmark

why bother?

Because people are worth it.  You never give up on people. You never give up on life.  I've seen people come back from the dead and, with the help of EMBERS go on and become hardworking, well paid citizens of our community.  Helping others in turn.  It’s these everyday miracles that keep me going and make it all worthwhile. 

Marcia Nozick; Founder and CEO Embers, Vancouver

Why bother? here are some quotes that speak volumes to me about maintaining healthy balance and wisdom in dark times (and haven’t there always been, and will always be dark times!?) 

1. Buddha: Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.  

 2. Leonard Cohen, “Love’s the only engine of survival.” 

 3. My favorite poem by Rumi: Out Beyond Ideas

     Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,

     there is a field.  I'll meet you there.

     When the soul lies down in that grass,

     the world is too full to talk about.

     Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

     doesn't make any sense

4. Pete Seeger: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine!” 

5. “Pete Seeger: Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That’s what Seeds is s all about. And this wonderful parable in the New Testament: the sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousand fold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?”

Well, hope this is useful and I wish you good luck with your blog and the course. I’m glad hear that you are taking this on! The world needs you!

Rae Mate, Artist, Vancouver 

Why bother:

These are dark days, as our world frozen in time frightens us, shocks us, and drives us indoors to our warm and familiar homes. We can still remember the days of celebration, when hope and change rose high above the horizon, illuminating the beauty of our collective potential. Now the light has passed and we find ourselves in the depth of despair. Cold, stuck, hopeless. It is so tempting to just hide from it all. And I do believe that could be the answer for now - bundle up and wait for it to pass. It will, I promise. While you are waiting, though, there is much to be done. This is the time to nourish, to rest, to build strength in body, mind and spirit in preparation for that which is to come. Because as the dark consumes, the light is reborn. It is our turn to be reborn, with more clarity, unity and resolve than ever before. It is our turn to lay the seeds for what will grow when this dark winter becomes but a cold and distant memory.

Rachel Malek, Youth Leader