Blog /The Water Drop
I stepped out into a warm rain as I left the SAMHSA ADS Center meeting this morning. As I dodged the droplets, trying in vain to stay dry, it occurred to me: We at this conference are those raindrops. As individuals we are mere single drops of water. As small groups in our organizations we are a steady rain. But if we can join together on a larger scale, we become a massive rushing river.
Make no mistake, one single drop of water has power — as anyone who has tried to sleep through the surprisingly disturbing sound of a slowly dripping sink can attest. But it pales in comparison to the power of water drops combined into a massive rushing river — a force that can knock down buildings and carve through the hardest of granite.
I can feel the river swelling when I'm at Alternatives, and at meetings like the SAMHSA ADS Center gathering this morning. Over breakfast we had the opportunity to meet and put faces with the names and disembodied voices we have heard on so many conference calls. Even more powerfully, we had the chance to hear about the wonderful projects and creative ways in which these individuals and organizations were helping to change the national mindset about people with mental health issues.
Participants proudly shared updates on projects as varied as poetry for personal power, art as a tool to talk about trauma in a non-threatening manner, films about young adults in recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues, lessons learned from work with different nations of Native Americans, and so much more.
While the projects and outcomes that people highlighted were wonderful, the truly compelling part of this meeting was watching the connections happening around the tables as people spoke. Slowly, and then more rapidly, individuals started seeing connections between the work that was being done. Tools developed for one program were just the thing that another needed to move forward. Problems that seemed insurmountable in one community were offered new solutions from a similar problem in another region.
This is why national gatherings like Alternatives are so important to our work. You see it time and again: The energy changes around the table. People realize they are no longer working in isolation, are no longer the only voice for change. You sense there are others with you in the work. The water drops begin to coalesce into a downpour, and then the downpour becomes a river.
Suddenly, the impenetrable granite wall of public stigma against people living with a mental health issue doesn't look so formidable and unchangeable after all.