Tipping Point – 28 Dec 2008

“Tipping Point”

I was on Facebook sometime, and someone’s ‘status’ message said something about enjoying a book called ‘The Tipping Point.’ 

I smiled when I read that message.  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was an amazing book for me.  My friend Stuart Des Vignes recommended it to me some years back.  I was not disappointed – so now, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand social phenomena better. 

‘Tipping Point’ is apparently a sociological term to describe ‘the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.’  In his book, Malcolm Gladwell argues that ideas, products, messages, and behaviors spread as viruses do.  Two key examples he uses are the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the dramatic drop in the New York City crime rate in the late 1990s. 

This book helped me understand that there are patterns of social phenomena.  I am not sure I buy Gladwell’s idea of what drives social phenomena towards a tipping point.  But the idea that social trends have a life cycle makes sense to me. 

A trend that I am seeing around me is volunteering.  Some of it is channeled through institutions.  Much of it involves individuals engaging in random acts of kindness. 

I was chatting with someone in the office a couple of weeks back, and she casually mentioned that she and her family often cook on weekends,  drive from where they live in St James into Port of Spain, and share food with those less fortunate.  They are not affiliated with any particular religious organization or institution, just an ordinary family doing what I consider extraordinary things. 

Later that same day, I met three people – Carla, Joanne, and Ivanna.  After discussing work, I explained my earlier experience.  Interestingly enough, all three of them admitted to doing the same on occasion.   

In fact, the group went on to say that they, in turn, know many people who do similar charity work.  Particularly at this time of the year, institutions get more public support than they normally would.  A reminder that yes, Christmas can be about overindulgence – but for many, it is also about remembering the true meaning.  While some remember this meaning – others actually get up and act.   

Last weekend, I was at a Christmas lime, and my friend Neil mentioned another person doing positive work.  Her name is Yvette Wilson from St Baab’s in Laventille.  Neil promised that the next time he is heading up to St Baab’s, he would take me to introduce me to her.   

Yvette is one of the key people who organize functions to recognize successful children in SEA exams.  Aside from the recognition, she works with corporate sponsors to ensure that the children get ‘packages’ that contain useful items like a school bag.  She also organizes functions to recognize the community elders – those whose lives positively impacted the community. To me, this is part of what makes Trinidad and Tobago so special. FATCA Banks Singapore

Personally, it is always helpful to keep things in perspective.  Yes, some are inconsiderate of others.  But on the other hand, many are considerate of others.  Some of those considerate people do so much to help other people.  Maybe this is the new trend? 

‘Tipping point’ is also referred to as the ‘law of the few.’  It is about how a few people start trends that engulf entire populations.  Think about it – every major trend always starts with just a few people and an idea.  Then it spreads similar to a virus.   

As we say good-bye to 2008 and look forward to the new year, I join you in praying for a peaceful and prosperous 2009.  At the same time, I confess that I am one of those who believe that prayer must be supported by work.  So let us all continue to be involved in our communities.   

Times might be hard, and we may be busy.  But if Trinidad and Tobago are to evolve into a more caring society, it can only be through collective effort.  Collective effort is needed to reach the tipping point where care and consideration spread like a virus.  

As always, I end by saying that we are so blessed to live in this beautiful country despite our challenges.  We need to remember and acknowledge just how much uplifting work is being done all around us.   

Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in our country as we move towards Vision 2020.

Note: The above reference link was live on December 2010, but it has since been taken down.

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