Horton Hears a Who Advocacy Analogy


My dear friend Cathy writes a terrific blog about addiction and how it impacts the family (http://cathytaughinbaugh.com/blog/).

We were electronically chatting recently about Recovery Month and how we feel like there are whispers of change in the wind.  The general public is starting to believe that those of us in recovery are pretty decent people; the shame and stigma is slowly starting to lesson.

Talking with Cathy reminded me of an old Dr. Seuss story, written in 1954.

Horton Hears a Who

The Horton story, you may remember, is of the elephant who hears a tiny speck of dust calling out for help.  As it turns out, the dust speck is an entire world, a place called Whoville.

Horton has a big heart and wants to enlist the help of his buddies in the jungle but they’re quite sure he’s become a wackadoodle because nobody else hears the voices.  Besides, who cares about creatures so small they occupy a lowly speck of dust?  Horton is nearly laughed out of the jungle.

But the Whoville need is great, cries the mayor, into Horton’s massive ears.

Horton tries to explain that in order to help, the jungle needs to hear their pleas so the Whos will have to try harder to be heard.

The nearly exhausted Whos have the brilliant idea to gather every single Who–from the large to the small–to all shout at the same time so that Horton’s entire jungle community can hear the Whos.

They try and try but to no avail; the jungle laughter continues.

Finally, one of the Whos discovers that teensy little JoJo has remained quiet.  With quite a bit of prompting, JoJo joins the clamor and that extra amplification does the trick.

One more voice

When I worked in addiction prevention at the community level, I often used the Horton analogy to make the point that it takes many voices–or in that case, many components within a community, to amplify a message so that real change is made.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about the Horton story as I work with Greg Williams and others involved with his documentary The Anonymous People.  I keep thinking, one more ticket reserved, one more screening, one more person in recovery to listen, one more legislator to make real change.

Those of us who are addiction recovery advocates are like the Whos in Whoville.  There are Hortons out there listening, but we need more of their buddies to look past their skepticism and outright disdain and embrace the possibility that the Hortons are right.

Just one more, then another, and another, until we come across the JoJo who will amplify the clamor into a beautiful chorus of YES’s unlike anything our Whoville has experienced.

I’m an optimistic person by nature, and my recovery provides the gift of trusting the process.  But I don’t think it hurts to look for JoJo while I’m trusting, do you?

P.S.  The Anonymous People has a companion action website where you can make real change.  It’s ManyFaces1Voice.org and is a partnership with the renowned national advocacy organization, Faces & Voices of Recovery.

With thanks for the Horton image to lovektj.

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  1. Galen Pearl says:

    I love that story–one of my favorites! Great analogy.

  2. Hi Beth,

    Love your post, your creative writing, your ideas, your strength, your warmth and all that you stand for. The Hortons are there, but as you say we need more, many more.

    I walked with my daughter on Sunday to help her prepare for the Breast Cancer Walk she is doing at the end of the month. My thought is that this is a wonderful cause and so needed. We need something similar for addiction and recovery!! Definitely The Anonymous People is leading the way!

    • Beth Wilson says:

      Cathy, thank you for your encouraging words. The post just popped out after we “talked”–thanks for the inspiration and being my muse for this one!

      Very cool about your daughter walking for Breast Cancer. I wish her well. And don’t worry — we’ll get there with addiction. As we keep rolling, via The Anonymous People movie and now ManyFaces1Voice.org, we’ll do this thing. I can feel it in my bones!

      Big hugs to you!

  3. Oh Mary – this is one of the best posts I’ve read of late – what a GREAT analogy and a reminder that every single, even tiny, voice helps. I will do my part to join the shout and help find the JoJo. Thanks for all you are doing to raise this awareness!!

    • oh dear — I wrote “Mary” not “Beth” – I’m so sorry!!

      • Beth Wilson says:

        Lisa, no worries! You’re not the first to call me Mary . . . I think it comes from the common Mary Beth. But that’s not my name (and could I add thank goodness!) I just don’t FEEL like Mary Beth.

        Thank you so much for the high praise. I am on a rant . . . September tends to do that to me. Wait until I get to New York next week for the NYC premiere of The Anonymous People. Holy Cow!

        From one faithful to the cause to another . . . you rock!

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