In this new year, we encourage you all to take action in social causes that matter to you. But what cause comes first? Paula's advice - take one step at a time:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
I feel like I’m slowly coming out of a kind of hibernation over the past two months. Like many others, after the election I needed to disconnect from all of the chaos. I focused on the holidays, nursed an irritating two-week virus of some sort and assumed I would gain some clarity about the future during the week I took off in between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
With the dawn of a new government, I feel as if every issue I’ve ever been concerned about has come to the light with a new sense of urgency. As a result, I have felt like my energy is being pulled in many different directions. I think about how the educational system in the U.S. is the most crucial issue to support, since it is one of the worst in the industrialized world, and the inability for some to discern between real and false information is alarming.
But, then I think about how mental health is really the most important issue because if people had access to it from an early age, the paranoia and hatred some people feel would not be so misdirected. Also, it would stop the mass shootings – and all the other shootings as well. But, then, I think about how civil liberties are at risk, so perhaps bringing my legal skills to organizations who seek to protect them would be the best use of my efforts.
Then, again, what about getting back to basics? Why not focus on issues such as food insecurity, which over 40 million Americans experience – an astronomical number. I think everyone should have access to healthcare regardless of their employment status, too. I don’t believe sick people deserve to be punished. I am fortunate to be one of the healthiest people I know and I breathe a sigh of relief about that when I look at those who struggle for basic healthcare in this incredibly wealthy country.
Don’t get me started on the criminal justice system, which I believe needs to be completely dismantled and built again from scratch in order to become effective instead of harmful. The sacredness of my right to vote also seems to be at risk, also, not only from some people within the United States – but now from people outside the U.S. as well.
Radical ideas, huh?
I feel, all of a sudden, that there will never be enough time to pursue all of the needs that I see around me. I also feel disoriented by too many Americans who seem to be embracing a vengeful and violent attitude toward their fellow Americans and affirmatively wishing to oppress them. My fantasy is to just win the lottery, support those programs that have proven results and leave the government out of it entirely. But, until that happens, I need a plan to maintain my own sanity.
Here is what I’ve figured out so far. First of all, I’m certainly not the only person who is concerned about the future. I’ve spoken to many people who feel exactly the way I do. We’re not alone and harnessing this energy for good can only result in greater good. Secondly, don’t be put off by feeling as if the effort of one person or your ability to help only one other person means that you are ineffective. Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”
I also have to summarize the parable of the starfish on the beach, a great reminder for those who feel helpless against all that must be accomplished, as well as the obstacles in our path:
A vast beach was littered with starfish, all of whom would die once the sun rose high in the sky. A young boy was walking along the beach and occasionally bent down to pick up a starfish and throw it back into the ocean, saving its life. A man observing this asked the boy why he bothered to throw back any of the starfish, since there must be millions of starfish on the beach. “I really don’t see how you will be able to make much of a difference.” the man said. The boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He looked back at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one!”
I’m of no help to anyone if I’m overwhelmed, exhausted, nervous and negative. I know that taking one step at a time is the best way to proceed, instead of running around aimlessly in circles, crumbling under the weight of it all or whining and complaining incessantly while doing nothing.
So, I’m going to regroup. I’m going to focus on one area. That area has to be something that is personally important to me and perhaps an area in which I can use my particular skill set and expertise. And then I’m going to dedicate my efforts to that area. I’m going to take consistent action for the foreseeable future and make a difference.
I’m not going to be a spectator in 2017. I’ve turned off my television, I’m getting focused and I’m ready to take action. I take great comfort in knowing that there are millions and millions of other people who are going to do the same.
If each of us focuses in an area that we are personally passionate about, this country is going to look like a freakin’ fantastic place in 2017. Take the first step!
Paula M. Jones is the creator of the multimedia web site, Small Epiphanies: Subtle Insights for Profound Change. Designed to be a single source of daily inspiration, Small Epiphanies is founded on the belief that true lasting change comes from the smallest insights that are available to us at all times. Check out her web site at www.smallepiphanies.co, like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/smallepiphanies and follow her on Twitter at @EpiphaniesSmall.