The theme this month is how do you make a change in your community? I mentioned in a prior post of mine about the value of being a good listener. If you want to see a change in your community, don’t wait around for someone else to do it. This is the time for you to step up and show what can be done. It can be hard to be the one to stick your neck out, and sometimes those who make themselves visible will get the most criticism. The criticism can be something to learn from but it also can be something you can allow to bring you down or shut you down. There is a certain finesse in figuring out what to take and what to throw away when it comes to people’s opinions and critiques.
If you are honestly stuck on what could be done to help improve the life of your community, start small. Simply listen to your neighbors on their concerns and issues, whether they be children, young adults, the elderly, about what they think should be done in the community. After a while, you will see what commonalities in complaints or issues start to rise, then decide on the pros and cons and whether this is something you can step up to help make a change for the better.
When a friend of mine was fed up with the lack of services in his community, he put in a bid to run for the local council seat. I joined on as his campaign manager. Neither of us had any political experience but we wanted to make a change and felt this was the way to go. I went and knocked on so many doors, passing out flyers and speaking to the people on the street, on their doorsteps, at their front doors. Although we didn’t get to win the election, some of our concerns were addressed by the newly elected councilperson! I learned a lot about the process of getting on the ticket, meeting the public, and hearing what they had to say. During the 2016 Presidential elections, I decided to become a part of the American democratic process and signed up to be a poll worker. When the elections were being challenged as legitimate for the 2020 Presidential elections, I came back to help once again and also just participated in the local mayoral elections. It is easier to sit home and complain about things being the way they are. What did I see while working at the poll site? I saw a lot of older people, over 30 and over 60 who came to vote. I didn’t really see a lot of young people coming to vote. If young people want their voices heard and truly want a major change, they need to show up and vote. And if their “favorite” is no longer in the running, then don’t give up and go home. Do the research. Look to the next best candidate for you that is still in the running. Deciding not to vote means you decided not to speak up — which means, whatever happens, whoever or whatever wins, you have zero right to complain or critique.
I get why young people don’t vote — they may feel that the system is rigged, what they say doesn’t matter, and that no one is listening to them. However. It is not enough to just “say something.” This is where you have to really think and define what you are taking a stance on and be able to relay it to other people in a thoughtful, intelligent, and clear way. Sometimes we know what we want, but just don’t know how to convey that. Sometimes we have no idea how to get started or how to get there — but that’s when simple honest communication and listening skills come in handy.
Start small. Listen. Figure out what you want to say. Communicate. Listen some more. Ask for clarification. Then research and start developing a game plan with people in your community and get out there, be visible — because this is going to be something that you will all benefit from. Whether that is an actively enforced speed or noise ordinance, organizing to have a “good neighbor” policy within the community to check in on the elderly or housebound to make sure they are OK or getting a green market with fresh produce at inexpensive prices to open at an agreed-upon open space a couple of times a month or on weekends, or demand for better working street lights, supermarkets, banks, hospitals, attract and support local businesses, better sanitation with regular pickups, more free parking spots, or rebuild local children’s playgrounds, showing up to question and speak with the local councilperson (and not just around election or re-election time) — these things help revitalize a community by providing jobs and keeping money spent within the community.