How to Stand Up for Change When You Feel Helpless
Where there's a will (even a tiny one), there is a way, says Amanda Litman, author of Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself. Here, she tackles what might be holding you back.
I don't have anything to offer.
Do you have money, time, friends, family, a Facebook profile, or a Twitter account? Then you have something to offer.
I don't know which fight is most important right now.
Forget about what the news says or what Twitter is up in arms about, and consider which fight is most important to you. That might be Black Lives Matter or immigration reform—or traffic patterns in your neighborhood or arts funding in your school district. Activism is kind of like exercise: The best fight to take on is the one that engages you.
I can't contribute much money.
Can you spare $5 a month?
That's okay! Your time and vocal support will make an impact. Just by discussing the issues you care about with friends and family, you'll bring more people on board.
Great! Even $5 will make a difference to organizations and candidates you believe in. Start a recurring credit card donation so the folks making budgets will know they can count on your support for the long haul. By giving, you'll join a community of people, like you now, who have a little skin in the game.
Yes, and I can give more.
Please do! And go a step further: Get your network involved. Talk about your donations on social media; invite friends to your home for dinner and a fundraiser. Don't feel bad asking for money—remember, you're not requesting a personal loan. You're asking friends to invest in their own future.
I don't have enough time to do anything meaningful.
That's probably not true. Tell me the amount of time you have, and I'll tell you what you can do to make a difference:
30 seconds a week: Retweet or share an online post and add your own call to action. Ask your friends to donate to a cause or volunteer, or simply ask them to watch a video and share it if they feel so moved. By showing your support for a cause, you're helping expand its reach.
10 minutes a week: Make a phone call, or three, for an issue you care about. Dial up your congressional representatives (the U.S. Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) and let them know what's on your mind.
3 hours a week: Find the candidate or topic that motivates you and show up for them. Whether you're knocking on doors for an animal rights charity or attending a local school board meeting, your presence matters.
I'm worried about what people will think.
Look at it this way: Your silence is a vacuum that the other side would be more than happy to fill. Is that really preferable?
Never forget that activism and politics combined have brought us suffrage, the civil rights movement, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, and hundreds of thousands of seemingly small ordinances and laws that together make up the fabric of our civil society. Some days it seems like pushing a boulder uphill—victories will feel small and you won't see immediate progress. But over the course of generations, the little wins will add up, changing your neighborhood, your town, your state, our country, our world. You can be part of that.