By Derren Joseph
December 28, 2008
I was on Facebook, 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 better understand social phenomena.
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 behaviours spread like viruses do. Two key examples he uses are the rise in popularity and sales of “Hush Puppies” in the mid-1990s and the dramatic drop in the crime rate in New York during the late 1990s.
This book helped me understand that there are patterns to 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 channelled 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 mentioned casually that she and her family often cooked on weekends, drove from where they lived in St James into Port-of-Spain, and shared food among those less fortunate.
They are not in affiliation with any particular religious organisation or institution, just an ordinary family doing what I consider extraordinary things.
Later that same day, I was in a meeting with 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 occasions.
In fact, the group went on to say that they in turn knew many people who did similar charity work. Particularly at this time of the year, institutions get more support from the public than they normally would.
A reminder that, yes, Christmas can be about over indulgence—but for many, it is also about remembering the true meaning. While some just remember this meaning—others actually get up and act.
Last weekend, I was at a Christmas lime and my friend Neil mentioned to me another person doing positive work. Her name is Yvette Wilson from St Barb’s in Laventille.
Neil promised that the next time he was headed up to St Barb’s, he would take me to introduce me to her.
Yvette is one of the key people who organise functions to recognise the children who are successful at 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 organises functions to recognise the community elders—those whose lives had a positive impact on the community. To me, this is part of what makes Trinidad and Tobago so special.
Personally, it is always helpful to keep things in perspective. Yes, there are those who are inconsiderate of others. But on the other hand, there are many who 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 goodbye 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 is to evolve into a more caring society, it can only be through collective effort.
Collective effort is needed for us to reach the tipping point where care and consideration spread like a virus.
As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful country. We need to remember and acknowledge just how much uplifting work is being done all around us.