There is a lot of shit happening right now and while I am not happy about it, I am grateful that as more and more ridiculous policies and issues coming up more people are realizing that there has to be something done about all this mess. To be completely honest, I broke down a few days ago thinking about all that needs to be done, from the horrible things happening at the boarder of the U.S. and Mexico, to my country’s indifference about climate change.
It can be hard to know what to do next. Hell, I went to school for Art, not environmentalism or political science….how the hell am I supposed to know what to do? Then I realized, that the real change happens when we are scared that we don’t know what we are doing, when we are scared that we will fail. I’ll probably do some of this wrong, and I’ll probably feel small or embarrassed at times, but the trick is to not let that stop me.
Here are some ways to make a difference in your community, whether that be in the town/city you live in or the country you reside in. Change starts with one person, then it expands to a group of people, a community, and then a larger community, etc.
Before we get into the actions, Let’s talk about trust and the ability to believe in the actions that you are doing. A lot of people are disillusioned by “the system”, and to be honest, I am too. However, just giving up or saying “if I do anything it doesn’t matter” automatically means there will be no change. If everyone said that and did nothing, everything will stay the same.
Everything. will. stay. the. same.
Do you want that? Not I.
Those that have interests counter to what you want to see in the world have a vested interest in keeping you feeling dejected and not able to make change. If you don’t feel like you have power, you won’t try and then you have none. You will take what they give you and be upset, but again, nothing will change. Understanding that even if the action you take doesn’t give you the intended result the first time, keep trying.
Encourage others that feel dejected and unable to make a difference. Talk about what you are dong loudly and tell people why. The more other people see others taking action the more they feel like they can too.
Understand where you already have the ability to speak
Your voice carries a lot of power. Bills are passed uncontested because there was little opposition or not enough. This is also not just about opposing things, but also those improvements to your city you wish existed, tell people about them. Call or hand write your representatives. Show up to your City Hall- It is as easy as looking up their website and checking out their calendar.
Understand that using your voice can mean showing up to a City Hall or meeting (which does carry some of the most weight), but it also can mean putting up posters, posting on social media, talking with your community members, and emailing companies to give feedback. I am notorious for being that person that emails companies that package in unnecessary plastic and I get usually really great responses. Yes, not everyone will listen but some will especially if they get a large number of emails from customers. So the more people that do this, the bigger impact it has!
Use your voice, because it matters. It matters more than anything that you speak up because your uniqueness gives the earth a different perspective. You will be able to see things differently than I, which increases our possibility of success when everyone in the room sees a different side of the issue.
By being informed I am not talking about watching the news every night. I’m talking about knowing your community, where you live, how the legislation works, (here is a guide I found on the Baltimore City website about City Council meetings and how bills get passed) and what events are happening around you. I mention events in this because there may already be numerable causes that you can help with- from protests to food drives or volunteer events that don’t require you to start from scratch. Start there and see how your knowledge and confidence in making a difference changes!
Part of being informed is going to community spaces, from libraries to parks. Oftentimes there are events there and flyers and resources about making a difference in your community. Check out that community board the next time you see one. Yes, it is mostly filled with business cards but there is often some gold there. Post something of your own, be it an event or a positive message that you want someone to see.
One of the highest ranked ways to effectively communicate to your representatives is to invite them to a community event. This gives them the chance to look good, connect, and you get their exposure to our idea or even you get to network and talk to them! While you might not want to invite them to your house party, a community trash pick up or vigil are great opportunities.
That brings me to local elections! Not only is it important to take part in local elections but do so as an informed voter. Take an hour or so before you go to vote to research the issues so you can make an informed decision (if you have more, then awesome, but at least this!)
While we all know the problems and raising concern about a problem is useful, the real change happens when we propose a possible solution. A lot of people think that if their solution isn’t the best possible solution their position will be dismissed. While if your solution is outlandish and completely unrealistic, this may be the case, but oftentimes it can inspire another solution that will work.
A simple example would be if you were writing a company about their individually wrapped snack bars. You email them saying that you love their product, it tastes great and is nutritious, and you do really love that their box is cardboard which is compostable, however, their actual bars are individually wrapped in plastic. Due the your environmental and health concerns, while you do love their product you will have to discontinue purchasing it. However, if they decide to change their packaging to a paper or other home compostable material, then you would be excited to be a customer again.
You state who you are (and who you are to them, a long-time customer), your appreciation of the product, the reason why you are no longer a customer, and a proposed solution. It goes without saying that being nice gets you a long way, especially since the Support rep that is usually answering your request isn’t the reason why the bars are wrapped in plastic. <3
Be an ally
Part of being an ally is being informed and taking your own education of multiple issues as your own responsibility. Are you curious about something such as gender, religious practices, a culture, or how another being experiences the world? Do your own research. Do not put the responsibility of educating you in the hands of another, especially when they have probably been asked that same question their entire life. It’s exhausting.
Stand up for those that are being taken advantage of. You see something wrong, say something. Ask if that person needs help when you see them staggering around and a person harassing them. If you see an authority figure giving another person a hard time because of the color of their skin or their religion, say something. Offer them support in whatever way they need it.
While this isn’t necessarily legally going to change your community, it is going to raise the collective morale and love in your community. When this type of outlook is celebrated and SEEN then more and more people know that it is okay to do that. Others will be inspired by your behavior and do that the next time they also see an injustice happening.
- Trust- Help build belief in change.
- Speak up- Because without that we have nothing!
- Be informed- Know what to say when it is the most effective.
- Propose solutions- Make it easier for the change to happen.
- Be an ally- Be a positive force in the human race.
I’d love to hear what you think? Let me know in the comments below!