Hello real life and internet friends,
The interweb may still be cute cat videos in your world, but most of my friends are deep into politics and racial equity stuff lately. I think it’s really easy to get swept up in some of the problems that face us without really ever putting much thought toward what solutions may be out there. To that end, I wish to offer the following.
There are 3 things at the root of most of our headline making problems of late:
- Lack of tolerance
- Lack of engagement
Here are 5 things we can all do to make sure that we are tolerant, informed, and engaged within our communities.
1. Get involved in LOCAL politics.
Most decisions that have tangible/direct effects on you and your family are made in city council/school board type meetings – not in the Oval Office. These meetings are typically open to the public and if you really want to be involved, you don’t have to have a bazillionairre family member to run for office at that level. Going to these meetings or becoming a low level official will open up your access to mayors and governors as well. This is all about engagement.
2. Study the histories of cultures which are represented in your community.
You may not KNOW a Hmong person/African American/Somali/etc., but you can learn about their backgrounds and know the struggles and triumphs they’ve had as cultures. These stories make up the fabric of their households and are a part of your community worth recognition and celebration. Internalizing and embracing the ancient and recent histories of your neighbors is a good way to start giving context to the conversations you have with them. Context combats ignorance and leads to tolerance.
3. If you don’t talk to your neighbors when you see them, START NOW.
You don’t have to be a doomsday prepper to understand the value of knowing who your neighbors are. Borrow the proverbial ‘cup of sugar’ (or in my case tools/lawn mower/generator). Grill dinner together. Have your kids play. Along the way, you’ll learn that the people of your community are different, but fucking awesome at the same time. Talking and working with others is about engagement and tolerance.
4. Donate your time to a community group even if you aren’t a member.
This is like giving a one time donation to a charity that wants a monthly one. Yes, they’re going to put you on their mailing list, but you’re going to meet people who share a common belief or passion along the way (If it’s not a belief or passion you share, please re-read #2). That newsletter you just got signed up for is going to keep you up to date on community events you were previously unaware of. This is a form of community engagement.
5. Support businesses within your neighborhood.
This is especially important as a political gesture for you if you’re currently riling against the 1% of uber rich people who are sweeping away the middle class. Businesses that are owned by community members are the ones that will lift your community the fastest. Here’s a tip; the “ethnic” stores you have been driving by are GOLD MINES. Especially the grocery stores. Many communities that don’t have an Vietnamese, Jewish, Italian or African grocery store still have co-ops or farmers markets. Why are you driving past these to get produce from God knows where at Walmart? Is it just because things are cheap? Go check out the local alternatives. You might be surprised. What businesses offer will vary based on where you are, but you should take pride in knowing that your choices support families your kids go to school with. This is also about engagement and combatting ignorance. The assumption that all you ever need is a big box store has you ignoring a huge part of your community.
I have voted differently than my neighbors, protested, stayed home, painted murals, dined with the rich, used the food shelf, and even shared the lane at a swimming pool with a man who had a large swastika tattooed to his bald head. I’ve travelled America a lot and met all kinds of people. We all have slightly different ideas of what our world should be like. The one thing we all have in common is we all want better for our families. If we can just extend that desire to the people within a one block radius of our homes, we’d all be much better for it.
As you go back to your various feeds online please remember something I recently overheard at a bar: It’s called a “feed” because it’s just shoving information into your face, and we can all do much more than clicking a “like” button.
Thanks for reading/sharing,
Chris “Midway Felix” Wilbourn