The Courage and Consciousness of Changemakers

The yellow school bus was packed full of excited 4th graders and a few parents who’d volunteered to help the teachers on this particular sunny spring afternoon. We’d just left the science museum and planetarium in the neighboring town on the annual field trip designed to reinforce the curriculum and provide a change of scenery after a long winter cooped up inside.

The children’s hands were filled with candy treats and souvenirs purchased at the gift shop on the way out. The energy was electric in the kids but starting to wane for the parents and teachers.

We stopped the bus at a nearby burger spot to pick up lunches for the children and take a breath before rushing back to school in time for dismissal where the children would board a different set of yellow busses to carry them home. An aromatic mix of grease, sweat and cigarette smoke floated on the air just atop the sweet smell of springtime. 

Suddenly, I jumped up out of my seat halfway back and bounded up the aisle to the front of the bus. I plopped myself into the driver’s seat, grabbed the wheel, and stomped my foot on the brake as hard as I could.

I breathed a sigh of relief and caught the eye of the driver standing outside the door of the bus taking a smoke.


He looked at me quizzically as I stood up and turned around. I was expecting to see the relief I felt in my pounding chest on the faces of the children and the parents behind me. Perhaps even applause? But instead, what I saw were expressions of surprise and utter confusion. 

The shock turned into uproarious laughter around me before I realized what was happening. 

The bus we were on, the one I thought was rolling into the ravine in front of us, was not moving at all. Instead, the bus parked beside us was backing out of its space to head home ahead of us. Everyone was safe and sound.

I could feel heat rise from my belly up through my neck and into my cheeks and ears as I blushed sheepishly at my mistake. After a moment of embarrassment, I joined in the laughter at my own expense and sat back down for the long ride back to school.

I wish I could report that I took the opportunity to use this teachable moment to talk with my students about how our brains can play tricks on us, especially if we act too quickly without taking in the full context of our surroundings. I did not do that. 

At the time, I was simply pleased to learn I had the courage within me to act quickly for the safety of my students if I were called upon to do so. Nevertheless, I was left unsettled by how easily I was fooled by a supposed danger that was not there. 

I have thought often about this incident in the years since as tragic situations make the news when people in charge have acted too quickly as their fight or flight reflexes were activated by a perceived threat that, in fact, did not exist at all.  Unlike my “runaway school bus,” these situations are no laughing matter. Misperception in this case led me to take swift action to “save” my students. Thankfully, my pride was all that was harmed as a result.  

But what are the potential consequences when we act too quickly from a place of misinformation? Even well-meaning people, like you and me, can easily become enamored with our own perceptions of the world. When those perceptions are not checked against reality, it is far too easy to make mistakes. Some of those mistakes simply become sources of self-deprecating jokes or valuable learning experiences. Others can be downright deadly. 

After my 35 plus years as a public educator in PreK-12 and higher education, I’m now refocusing my efforts as an independent change educator championing the development of changemakers prepared to address the world’s social and environmental challenges.   

Changemakers like that require great courage, but they also require a steady awareness and consciousness of forces greater than themselves. Intuition guides us to trust our guts and act accordingly, but critical thinking requires that we make decisions with discernment and all available, and verifiable, information. If we are not careful to engage intuition and consciousness in tandem, our intuition can take a turn toward a misguided, or even dangerous, impulsivity. 

The antidote to impulsivity, even in the name of courageous action, is the intentional development of consciousness through regular contemplative practices like those shared in the upcoming book The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self Care: 25 Tools to Achieve Anything launching on June 22nd.  In it, you will read many inspiring stories and access a wealth of tools that will help you to refine your intuition, honor your innate courage, and nurture your consciousness to create a better world for all.

You’ll want to get your hands on this brilliant book as fast as you can. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to contribute the first chapter titled The Changemaker Tree: Growing a Better World from the Ground Up. I hope you will also take the opportunity to learn more about my work to cultivate homegrown changemakers and download your copy of my eBook, Changemaker YOU, here

Connect with Patricia Talbot and be sure to read Chapter 1 in The Wellness Universe Guide to Complete Self-Care, 25 Tools to Achieve Anything available on Amazon June 22nd.

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