How many times have you heard someone say that (today’s post title) or maybe even said it yourself? When we encounter things that we think are wrong, what is our reaction? When we do something that is wrong, how do we react? Do we look for somebody else to blame or to take action to correct the problem? I saw today’s quote on-line somewhere and it resonated with me – “If it is to be, it is up to me.” ― William H. Johnsen
I often look up the authors of the quotes that I use to see what else they might have been quoted as saying. Interestingly this is the only quote ever attributed to William H. Johnson. According to Wikipedia – William Henry Johnson (1901 – 1970) was an American painter. Born in Florence, South Carolina, he became a student at the National Academy of Design in New York City, working with Charles Webster Hawthorne. He later lived and worked in France, where he was exposed to modernism. I was initially amused by the fact that this was his only quote; but then I realized that he has one more quote that is used all over the world than I do or that most of us will ever have.
Looking at Johnsen’s one quote in depth, it has much more meaning that it initially appears to contain. On its surface, it is a simple and straightforward call to action, sort of like Nike’s Just do it. In reality, it begs the issue of one’s view of the world and events that are happening all around us. It is very easy to become hardened and almost impervious to the news of the day – the injustices to, and on-gong hardships of, those faces that we see on the nightly newscasts. There is also that tendency to look for someone else to take up the responsibility to do something to right those wrongs – the somebody ought to do something reaction. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
We know that we cannot solve all of the problems of the world and we can see that some of the issues that need to be addressed require action from those who are well above our pay-grade; however, that should not detour us from taking some action. If we cannot make the big decisions ourselves, we can at least let those who can know how we feel about it. We can call or write our representatives in Congress and express our support for actions to correct the problems. We might be able to donate money or time to organizations that are working on the solutions to hunger or homelessness or other ills. We can take Johnsen’s quote to heart and do something. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
It is important (and Johnsen’s quote rally points to this) that you not allow yourself to become numb or complacent about things that are wrong or injustices that you see every day. Prejudices – racism, homophobia and misogyny – continue to exist only because we allow them to exist. If they are to stop, where do you think that begins? Johnsen had the answer. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
For Christians, Johnsen’s quote is particularly true. Jesus said that we must take up the cross to follow him. Taking up that cross is not just about bearing the pains of life, but about taking an active role in making things better for all. Taking up the cross is the ultimate expression of Johnsen’s s quote, because you are saying it that moment – “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Yes, somebody ought to do something about that and that somebody is you. Take up your cross and repeat after me – “If it is to be, it is up to me.”