Lessons learned from Patriots’ Day

Today is April 19th, or Patriots’ Day, here in Massachusetts. It is a holiday unique to our state and Maine, which was once part of Massachusetts. The Boston Marathon is run, the Red Sox play a day game at Fenway and the battles of Lexington and Concord are re-enacted. (Much as it sounds like it, it is not a celebration of our New England football team.)

The events we celebrate took place in 1775. Even though that’s 235 years ago, there are still lessons we can learn from those events. Lessons that are still relevant as we all work to improve the mental health system for children and their families.

All of us are familiar with Paul Revere’s ride. But did you know that Paul Revere was able to be successful in rousing the countryside because he had played a part in the Tea Party (the first one) and had strong connections to other local leaders? He spread the word of the British advance by stopping at the houses of key people in each town along his ride. In other words, he was part of a network of leaders who were able to push forward change.

Most of the citizen soldiers who came forward that day, the Lexington and Concord minutemen, were untried and untested. Like many of us, they were scared but followed through anyway. They believed in and fought for rights and freedoms they just didn’t have under British rule. Because of them, many Americans of that time began to believe that it might be a worthy idea to fight against a system that wasn’t working for them and fight for one that represented their values.

This was an era when most European countries — and the colonies that would later become countries — were ruled by kings or queens. The British were considered the greatest military power of their time. Yet, the men who came out to fight that day believed that certain powers and rights rested with the individual and could only be given freely to form a union. Their power sprang from the individual taking action, not conferred by a monarch.

So those of us who advocate for a better world for children with mental health needs and their families can learn three key lessons from the events that we celebrate each Patriots’ Day:

First, be a networker like Paul Revere. Find other leaders and strengthen the network that can create change by being part of it.

Second, be ready to fight in small and large ways for the ideas and principles you value. Only by insisting that they are important can we alter the mental health system for children and families a little at a time.

Third, remember that the power to change things lies with the individual. It’s easy to focus only on our daily challenges but we are all able to move things in the right direction, even if it’s just a little at a time.

Have a happy Patriots’ Day!

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