There are times when we feel compelled to stand up for something, but discouraged because we are only one person. What can one person really do? Is it worth standing up at the risk of having our legs swept out from under us? Can one person move a mountain?
My father’s family is from a small town in Italy, tucked in the mountains. Everyone knows everyone, word spreads like wildfire, and your business is everyone’s business. Like most small towns everyone is very tight-knit.
I often hear a number of stories from during the war when we had Fascist troops in our town. One day my great-grandfather Giannen (little Giovanni) was heading to the Osteria in town. (He was a man of small stature, but I am told he was a brawler in his younger years.) While he was walking he came across a little boy who was crying. My grandfather, who was concerned, stopped to find out what was wrong. The boy had been on his way home, all dressed up, with a red carnation pinned to his lapel. As he passed one of the Fascist troops in town he was greeted with a slap across the face. The soldier tore the red flower off of his jacket and continued on his way (red was a communist color).
My grandfather, upset by what had happened, went to find the soldier in the coffee shop and gave him a beating for having hit the little boy. The incident was phoned in to the next town over and soon there were two trucks full of Fascist troops rolling in looking for my grandfather. They took chase when they found him, shooting at his legs trying to take him down. When they finally caught him they beat him pretty bad and took him to the town hall. Word spread like wildfire, they were going to bring him to the next town over and execute him. People started gathering from all over town, came up from the valley and the neighboring areas. As the two trucks prepared to leave town with Giannen they were met by a big crowd of people who surrounded the building and the trucks. They were facing off.
A shout from someone in the crowd, “We want Giannen!”
One of the soldiers got out of the vehicle and told them to move. They were taking him to the next town over to be executed for his actions.
An old man in his 80’s stepped out of the crowd towards the soldier.
“If you don’t leave him we will roll your trucks down the mountain with all your men in them.”
The soldier responded, “We would die for a few cents.”
The old man quickly responded, “And we would die for nothing.” They were not leaving without my grandfather.
The soldiers wisely decided to leave my grandfather, and it was probably for the best. Don’t think for one second that they would not have rolled those trucks down the mountain.
It only takes one person to move a mountain side of people. Never underestimate the power of one person’s actions. If you never stand up you will always be weighed down by the “what if.” I would much rather take a beating for standing up for what I believe in, than beat myself up for having done nothing at all.