Mahatma Gandhi once said: "Be the change that you want to see in the world"
I am a person who believes strongly that if you have connections and a voice, you should use it to speak for others who have less access to avenues of influence.
Well, this blog is one of those connections to others: all of you wonderful people out in the blogosphere.
We usually use this blog for the fun and happy-go-lucky parts of our life, but today I'd like to speak to our readers about something with greater gravity.
A few weeks ago I participated (and helped to run/plan) an event on my campus to raise awareness and educate people about homelessness. This was the last event of a year long poverty project to raise awareness, educate, do service, and advocate. At the end of the night we all made a commitment to do something... I committed to be unafraid to use my voice.
I took several things from these experience:
1. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and to have their humanity acknowledged. To me, every human being deserves basic respect and compassion. It isn't always easy to give, but it is my goal to attempt it.
2. We are all interconnected.
It's hard to ackowlege this, because it can be an endless struggle, but in many ways, if we aren't a part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. As Maya Angelou said: "If it is true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, isn't it also true that a society is only as healthy as its sickest citizen and only as wealthy as its most deprived?" Similarly, in the Social Work for Social Justice Principles it is said that: "A basic moral test of any community or society is the way in which the most vulnerable members are faring"
3. I should be brave enough to speak up for those who don't have as much opportunity and access as I have- and I should stand up for what I believe in.
It's difficult to live every second focusing on the painful truths about our world, but I also cannot ignore or avoid the problems of the world and simply wish that they will go away.
So you may be wondering, "what can one person do?"
Well, Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does”
And we know that we can't just close our eyes and cover our ears- ignoring problems won't make them go away.
The simplest place to start is through our connection to other people: open your eyes and ears, look people in the eyes, reach out your hand, and speak to others from your heart. Start talking to your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, local and state representatives and tell them about things that matter to you.
Here's a few places for fellow Minnesotans and others to get involved:
This group has great information about MN advocacy: http://www.affirmativeoptions.org/
Find out about important issues facing MN: http://www.mpirg.org/
U.S. Pirg is the national version of this: http://www.uspirg.org/
I'm a social work student, so I use the NASW to let me know about important issues on a broader level: http://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/default.asp
And last, but not least, join the campaign to reduce poverty in America:
Believe in something. Make a commitment to make a difference!
How will you use your voice?