November 19, 2018

Resolve to get involved

By Christie Minervini | Dec. 31, 2016

I’ve noticed that as I get older, my New Year’s resolutions have become less about self-improvement and more about doing my part to give back and strengthen our community. I’m pushing 50, so the idea of a legacy — how I am remembered and what I leave behind, is important to me. I’ve received tremendous gratification from volunteering, and it seems the more I get involved, the more I find myself saying “yes” to new opportunities.

As you know, this past election cycle was unlike anything we have ever experienced. Forty-two percent of eligible voters chose to sit this one out — even with all that was at stake. People don’t appreciate the partisan bickering underlying the voting process, and some truly believe their vote doesn’t count. Politicians are easy to dislike, and many of us distrust them based upon fake news or irresponsible media coverage.

Hillary Clinton hit the nail on the head when she said, “The worst thing that can happen in a democracy — as well as in an individual’s life — is to become cynical about the future and lose hope. That is the end, and we cannot let that happen.” I suggest that this is no time for hopelessness and despair. More than ever, we need to resolve to get involved.

The people who are affecting change — at the local, state and national levels — are the ones who have simply made the commitment to show up. When we get involved in politics or community organizing, we use our time, talent or treasure to serve a greater good while helping to make our world a better place. 

There are many ways to make change. Here are some ideas:

Lobby our elected officials. The digital age has made it easier than ever to reach our politicians and make them aware of the causes we care about and the liberties we want to protect. And don’t shy away from the phone. According to a former Congressional staffer with a popular Twitter thread, this is the best way to get your elected representative to listen to us.

Attend town hall or city commission meetings. These meetings are where we can get our voices heard, in front of those who can actually do something about it. Speaking at a commission meeting is an effective way to provide public input or to hold decision-makers accountable.

Get involved in our schools. If you have a child in school, learn about your school board or join your local PTA. Children with parents who are actively engaged in their education do vastly better than those who leave it to our overworked teachers and underfunded schools.

Stand up for our vulnerable neighbors. Victims of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, the homeless, and minorities need us to speak up and advocate for them. Get involved with the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, the Women’s Resource Center, Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse, or the Traverse City Human Rights Commission. If you can’t volunteer, attend an event, submit a letter to the editor, or even better, write a check.

Mobilize and pitch in for a specific cause. Organize or participate in peaceful protests against sexism, racism or the abuse of our natural resources. Use social media for good by reaching out to other like-minded individuals who support your cause, or respectfully influencing others who are uneducated or unaware.

Join a voting league or political organization. A nonpartisan group like the League of Women Voters is a great way to stay informed, or choose a political group that aligns with your values. I’ve joined a local group called “Woman 2 Woman” that was formed to promote equality and opportunity. It has organized political conversations and even a bus trip for the Women’s March on Washington this month.

Embrace civil discourse. A much more effective means of making an argument, civil discourse promotes open-mindedness, mutual respect and compromise. Without it, we are less fit to engage in democratic politics, and less able to effectively deliberate. It’s not just about being nice — it’s about being constructive and productive.

Pound the pavement. If we want to influence people, it is good to actually go out and meet them. My husband and I were surprised by how open and civil our Traverse City neighbors were when we recently canvassed regarding Prop 3. Even if they didn’t agree, they seemed to appreciate the fact that we were out meeting face to face.

Join a campaign or work at a political headquarters. If you find a politician who represents the change you’d like to see, contact his or her office and get involved. Stuff mailers, put up signs or distribute door hangers — these mundane tasks will push your candidate ahead.

If you really want to make a difference, run for office. You can champion the issues that matter, get the right ordinances or bills passed, end injustices, and move things in a positive direction.

I recognize that a lot of us are busy with our jobs, families and other responsibilities — but if you’re able, any one of these suggestions would make a heck of a resolution. Here’s to a hopeful New Year.

Christie Minervini owns Sanctuary Handcrafted Goods in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and is passionate about gender equality, community development and ending homelessness.

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