Creating Change: Lessons and Advice



  • Be prepared for hard work.
  • Remember that it takes a long time to get change made.
  • Be sure what you’re fighting for.
  • Don’t get angry, it’s a waste of your energy.
  • You win some and you lose some.
  • Be ready for surprises as a volunteer.
  • Everyone has something to offer. Always recognize and encourage others’ strengths.
  • Conciliation goes further than confrontation.
  • Plan and organize actions with care.
  • Build on earlier achievements.


May said with characteristic directness that people don’t listen to advice. But with a span of sixty years of social activism, what keeps her going? Her answer is unequivocal and passionate: “Seeking justice… seeing what needs to be done, and doing it!”

Once more, she tells a story to illustrate the importance of keeping the big picture in view:

A woman is walking on the beach with her grandchild. A big wave comes along and picks up the grandchild. She kneels down and prays to God, “Oh my God, bring him back, bring him back”. The next big wave comes and brings the boy back. “Thank you God! Thank you, God!”—and then she asks the boy, “Where’s your hat?” The lesson is this: never mind the hat! People give so much importance to very small things that they forget the important things.

While prioritizing is important, so is the need to act—with others. May emphasizes the responsibility of not shirking problems, once they are recognized. Don’t walk away and wait for someone else to deal with them, she says, but get together with others and plan remedial action. For her, the key skill requirement for activism is how to work with others.