I’ll start by saying I’ve never had great faith in our government to a) implement massive change on a local level and b) its capability to do so. I do believe in doing small things with great love. 1) look the crossing guard in the eye when you say thank you 2) help the teenager with his mother’s list in aisle 4 find the olives 3) smile at the mom with the child having the loud tantrum in public. We’ve all been there, sister.
This isn’t about me. This isn’t about what I do, or what I believe, how I raise my children, or how I plan to implement change in my own small ways.
This is about each other.
We can no longer ignore the gap, can we? We can no longer deny the fact that we call ourselves good citizens, that we brake for bunnies and pay our taxes, but that a large portion of our country still feels unsafe, forgotten, misunderstood.
We cannot help the marginalized if we do not see the margins in which they live.
We are only infringing if we know nothing of the fringe.
It is thinking about the way we live, and asking ourselves why.
And so, of course we can all do this. In any season, at any moment.
But if you feel buried, here’s a shovel:
- Do not victimize yourself.
- You are not buried until you’re buried alive. We are all busy: someone or something always needs our time. Do not tell yourself you are only one person and your actions will have no impact. Initially I struggled with this issue considerably. Do not see your own Life struggles and think they are equal. Yes you have worked hard to get somewhere. Someone else has had to work harder. Do not make assumptions. You have two options: a) Chase tomorrow or b) Accept today. I recommend the former.
- Notice it.
- The trick, then, is to notice the chasm. Do your research. Visit your local library. Visit your local history museum. Ask employees at both to recommend authors on current events, and events leading up to them. Learn how we got here, and why we’ve always been. Find a trustworthy news outlet, preferably one that is as impartial as possible. Beg your representative to hold a town hall and then attend it. Listen to every single person, regardless of whether or not you share their opinions. Once you’ve noticed the chasm, you’re well on your way to the good work.
- Consider your compass.
- Take whatever opinion you hold and pick it apart from every angle. Have near-irrefutable evidence for your views. Admit the inevitable weaknesses in them. Teach your children to do the same. Resist the urge to exaggerate your current state of being. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Check your views against your dearest friend and the person with the exact opposite beliefs. There is nothing broken within you that isn’t broken in everyone else.
- Put on your boots.
- Call your representatives. On both sides of the aisle. Put their office phone numbers into your cell and call them every day, as if they were your best friends. Make it as much of a habit as brushing your teeth. Sign petitions or start one. It is worth reconveying: do your research. Attend town halls. Call your representatives and ask them to hold one. Do not do any of this over social media. Pick up the phone, over and over.
- Forget ‘but”.
- You will be tempted to resist making a change because of the “but.” But what will my family think? But what if it’s too hard? Take one step; start small. Ask yourself what one issue are you driven to most, currently? Get specific. What stumbling blocks are ahead? Move them, or move around them. When we see a roadblock, the temptation is to throw stuff at it- distract, distract, distract. Focus. Do you see it? Your path is here. It is wise to survey the “but,” to consider it a lesson in preparedness, to let it inform your plans. And then it is wise to proceed anyway.
- Allow failure.
- We didn’t get to a gnashing herd collective with tiki torches overnight. Acknowledge the walls we’ve mistakenly built. The giant holes in our arguments. We needed to assume the wrong things, to learn the hard lessons the hard way. The failing nearly always comes before the learning, and sometimes, yes, even after the learning. It is an impossible step to skip. Allow it. Learn from it, and re-learn from it again and again.
- Walk ahead.
- Do not wait for someone else in your circle to make the first move. Do not wait for the next news story. Mostly: do not wait. You have far more power over this than you think.
- Look up.
- Literally and figuratively. Talk to your divine being if you have one. No matter your religion, or lack of one if you prefer, read the Bible, the Koran, the Gita, and the Pitakas. But it is also nearly impossible to navigate your path when you’re looking down, staring at the phone, scrolling through journeys on vastly different terrain, airbrushed and filtered at times. Don’t forget to peer at the path behind you. Don’t forget to see how far we’ve come, see where we’ve tripped, see where we’ve detoured, see where we’ve reoriented, and where we still need to. It will be worth it for us all in the end.