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Actually Acting

Updated: Feb 5

How do we motivate ourselves & our community to actually give a F about making the world a better place amongst internal & external chaos?

Well folks, here we are. It's 2024 and the nonsense just keeps coming, doesn't it? Things are frustrating on every level and it sometimes feels like the whole world has just gone mad. Haven't you heard the news, or do you live under a rock? It's chaos out there and nobody is doing anything about it! Why aren't you posting about this? Why aren't you doing something about that? Don't you see the problem!!

The world doesn't need more angry internet posters & harassing our colleagues about every tragedy happening across the world is not the flex you think it is.

Let's get real with each other for a second. We all live in the modern age, we all see what is happening. The reason most people "aren't talking about it" is because they are traumatized & feel helpless in the face of the system. It's that simple. We are living in unprecedented times of technological advancement and people can barely afford housing / food let alone funding an anti-war effort or going to bat for every single issue our country faces. Littering your social media and daily conversation with the hopelessness and tragedy of reality isn't actually doing anything for it. If you were to talk about these things in real life at a dinner party, I bet we can count the minutes before everyone's eyes have glazed over. While you are busy on your soap box, there are real people in your community actually getting down to business. That is not to say that raising awareness for a cause or situation isn't important, but if all you're doing is complaining about the way things are & arguing with bigots online, you are unfortunately adding to the abyss.

What if social media is my only option for participation? I totally get that. You could be a busy parent, have limited mobility or an illness that prevents you from hitting the streets. I'm not saying all social media awareness raising is a bad thing, but we need to focus on real solutions if you want your community to actually do something about it.

Think about it this way: what is more actionable to you? Seeing a list of names who have passed away from drug overdose or being shown that there is a local group who you can volunteer with & resources to get started? In the first instance, my mind drifts to "oh, how terrible," the second offers me hope. Negative news might get you more clicks and reposts, but again we are just shouting into an echo chamber of other people who also fully know that it's bad news. We have seen what constant bad news without resolution does to people's morale. We don't need any more of it.

Throwing money at the situation isn't what we need either. Over history, we have learned that many non-profits are doing sketchy things with their funding, and it is not always being allocated to the people in need like you expect. And to be honest, giving away some of your money to have other people do the work doesn't make you much more than an investor. So, are you in the business of helping or having the appearance of helping?

If you have made it this far without scoffing or turning red, I applaud your growth. You are a part of the growing bunch of humans who know it is time to act. You don't need much free time and you don't need much money either. If you are willing to do the work, you can find resources, activist groups, volunteer opportunities, and businesses to align with.

Right now you have skills, social resources, and solutions that your community can benefit from. The thing that is holding you back is fear.

This year, I have decided to help a local community center revamp their kids' corner for the afterschool program. Through researching, I realized that afterschool programs like these are vastly important for children who may have unstable home lives or no other means of entertainment. Through reading scientific journals offered online for free, I saw that those hours between school ending and bedtime are imperative for shaping the next generation of well-rounded adults. During that time, kids need to be challenged, safely allowed to try new things, and comfortably connect with their peers or else negative behaviors are sure to show. Through my life experiences and education background, I recognized how important reading and writing skills are (as well as creativity), so I undertook the task of setting up a new library for them in their rec room. However, this project is not about dropping off some new books and praying for the best. It is a choice to dedicate my time to inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging this group through small challenges to get interested in reading in the first place. We have to do our due diligence of making sure the books being offered are interesting, hopeful, and have characters that actually look like the kids reading about them. It's about recognizing intersectionality and the importance of offering a Spanish section. It's about creating a space that feels good to them that they are curious about.

Research isn't where the task ends though. We have to actually invest effort into our projects, we have to ask what our community really needs, and we have to not take up the time & space of those already doing the work in the process. Your job is to get in and get out with the least amount of disturbance as possible with the highest yield of good. And upon further investigation, this may be more challenging than it appears. Knowing your own subconscious biases and the long history of "helpers" coming in to cause more damage is imperative before you set off on any project with at-risk or vulnerable groups. It is also wise to link up with locals and non-profits who are already working in these areas so you can get up to speed.

This library project was completed from start to finish in 2 weeks and cost me less than $100. The money spent wasn't even mine, I raised it through donations. Many times, I would talk with shop owners about what we were doing and they would offer massive discounts - because most people want to help whenever and wherever they can - we just have to be willing to ask. Making change is easy if you are brave enough to move through the unknown & put yourself in increasingly more learship-esque situations.

That same week I decided to start the Trash Fairy Project, a local garbage collection initiative where we may be working with some big names in local waste management to set up a free pick-up system for those doing these litter sweeps all because I got tired of seeing trash in my neighborhood & stinking up my garage bin. What it took was 2h of litter collections, a phone call, and an in-person meeting with management and by as soon as Spring this could be a county wide program. I don't know much about landfills or garbage collections, but I know that clean neighborhoods & waste diverting from our waterways is a good thing. I am not anybody special, I am just a 25-year-old, 5'2" ball of justice that couldn't stand to not see something being done about it.

My point here is not to submit my application for the Mother Teresa award. It is to let you know that there is hope for change. YOU CAN actually do something with those ideas you have & you can witness the positive ripples unfold in real time. Accomplishing these two projects is just the beginning for me. I am now fired up and on the hunt for new hopeless spaces to infiltrate...and I hope you are too.

So how do we actually motivate ourselves and our community? Through action. There is just no way around it. We have to acknowledge the problems that we can tackle and get to work. Through the 'doing' you will be inspired to keep going & you may inspire many others to do the same along the way. If you find yourself sitting in the flames of chaos in either detachment or rage, I encourage you to find that hopeful opening. It is time to stand up and put the fire out. I have extra pails out back.

With love,

Ashlyn Aquarius  

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