In the midst of mask-wearing and social distancing, are you searching for meaningful ways to work for change?
I don’t know about you, but I prefer a list of options so that I can pick the one that is most doable for me, a working-from-home mom of two school-age children. So, I’d like to offer you a list of five possible advocacy opportunities for this time of distancing. However, I have two disclaimers: 1) this list is by no means exhaustive, and 2) this list is not meant to be intimidating or overwhelming; rather, it is intended to give you options, so that you choose one thing and do it well.
- Take this time to educate yourself. While it’s difficult to express in-person solidarity with those who are poor or those being treated unjustly, now is the perfect time to educate yourself about the root causes of an issue you are interested in/passionate about. If you have an interest in contributing to the anti-racism movement, use this time to read books on racism (by people of color), register for webinars, or take a JustFaith Ministries program. If you’re interested in hunger or poverty, learn about issues in your community that are affecting the people who show up at the shelter or food pantry where you typically serve. Use this time to find out what is most helpful to people in your community so that you’re better prepared to be in solidarity when distancing guidelines have been reduced. (Learn about JustFaith Ministries current program offerings here.)
- Get to know your Congresspersons/Congressional staff members (if you haven’t already). Now is a great time to join an advocacy team or to pull together a small group of friends to form a team. Define the top 2-3 issues your team will take on, give your team a name, and then set up a Zoom call with your state or federal legislators. Not only is there strength and support in numbers, but you’ll have a better chance of visiting with your Congressperson rather than his/her staff (although visiting with staff can be effective too!). Remember, your legislators work for you, not the other way around. Contact me at [email protected] if you’d like me to connect you with your regional Bread for the World representative, who can provide training and resources for easy and effective advocacy.
- Do your own political homework leading into the election. It’s disturbing how often I hear people repeating political talking points from partisan news sources. (I’m talking about both Fox News and MSNBC!) If you claim undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens, then you should be able to give practical examples of where and how that is happening. If you claim that racism is embedded into our political and economic systems, then you should be able to define racism and give examples of how this is true. Otherwise, refer to Advocacy Opportunity #1. Mimicking what partisan political pundits are saying without doing our own homework does nothing to advance the common good – which should be the goal of democracy in the first place. (Editorial Note: I do not think that the existence of systemic racism is an ambiguous topic, and I urge our JustFaith community to choose our sources wisely so that we can speak about it with accuracy.)
- Participate in our “Acting for Justice While Sheltering in Place” webinars. These webinars, which discuss how to take action around issues such as racial justice, eco-justice, and hunger, are a great place to get practical advocacy ideas and tips from our partners and collaborators. Visit our webinar webpage for past webinar recordings and you can find out information about upcoming webinars on our events webpage.
- Contribute to nonprofits making a difference. If you have not been financially affected by the coronavirus, set aside the money you are saving on dinners out, lattes that you used to pick up on your way to work, and the gas you’re not using for your commute, and use it to make a donation to a nonprofit. Better yet, use the extra time at home to check in with your financial advisor and set up a planned gift. It’s a great time to consider how you’d like to leave a legacy of love and compassion that will live on long after you do. (It only took me 15 minutes to do this!)
Last, but certainly not least, do all the above with an attitude of kindness and decency. It’s the only way we’ll be able to build a bridge across our vast political and cultural chasm. Like the well-known song by Fr. Peter Scholtes says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” – not our hate. Yes, indeed:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35