City Year Founding Story: It's In Your Hands

IT’S IN YOUR HANDS
There once lived a wise elderly woman. She had lived in the same house her entire life.
Everyday when she woke, she would say “Good morning” to her beautiful parakeet,
Agape. The woman would put Agape in the window so she could enjoy the sun and the
fresh air, and the elderly woman would then go about her daily chores. All of the people
who lived in the neighborhood knew about the elderly woman and her bird, Agape. One
day, two young men decided that they were going to break into the elderly woman’s
house while she was away and steal her bird. They decided that when she returned they
would approach her and say, “Old woman, we have your bird. Is it dead or alive?” If the
old woman replied “dead,” the young men decided that they would open their hands and
let Agape fly away. If the old woman replied “alive,” they would crush Agape dead and
drop her at the feet of the elderly woman.
Just as they had planned, the two boys waited for the elderly woman to leave her house to
do her daily chores. When the elderly woman left, they broke into the house and stole
Agape. When she returned, she found that her house had been broken into and Agape’s
empty cage was on the floor.
Just as the two boys had planned, they approached the elderly woman and said, “Old
woman, we have your bird. Is it dead or alive?” The wise, elderly woman paused a
moment and looked at the ground. Then, with caring in her eyes, she looked at the boys
and slowly answered, “I don’t know… it’s in your hands.”
Popularized b y Toni Morrison, who used it in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize
in Literature -- often quoted as an indigenous tale.
Agape (ä-gä pay) is a Greek word for selfless, spiritual love for humanity. We hold in our
hands not only the consequences of our own decisions, but also the effect we can have on
the actions of others - and even on the state of the world as we find it. When we make
good choices, and take responsibility for the poor choices we have made - and regain
power over our own actions -- we ennoble ourselves by directly enhancing humanity.
When we offer others the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to make
good choices, we offer pathways to empowerment and dignity. Similarly, when we
realize that the problems of our day, perhaps through no direct fault of our own, are in
our hands, we realize that knowledge of pain, suffering or injustice equals responsibility
to act. 

City Year Founding Story: It's In Your Hands