“Truth is on the side of the oppressed.” ~ Malcolm X
At the Women’s March on Denver, one of the organizers told us to take Sunday as a day of rest so that on Monday, we could “get to work.”
The crowd erupted.
In that moment, I too felt inspiration welling within me. Let’s f*cking go! I thought. A group this large and impassioned would surely be a powerful force for change, hope, and progress. The surge of energy that ran through the park that day was electrifying.
Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of skepticism. Would all of these women (and men) really lace up their boots on Monday to take action for justice and equality? Or would the fervor of the masses quickly dissolve as everyone got to work—at their offices, rather than in their communities?
It’s deeply challenging to build new habits. I’m sure many of us have already given up on our new year’s resolutions. I for one have taken no tangible steps toward planning trips after I vowed to travel more this year. And that was to pursue my own selfish desire to see and explore the world! How can I expect myself to commit to civic engagement when I struggle to even commit to my own dreams?
I believe the key is to start small. If we try to support each and every cause represented at the many marches around the world, we will inevitably spread ourselves too thin, too quickly. I may want to write letters to my senator and representative, serve food at a local shelter, become a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, clean up trails and streams in parks nearby, and donate to 10 different non-profits that address the many issues I care about. But if I do all of those things, I’ll likely find myself burnt out after just a few weeks.
In light of this, I began thinking hard about my own next steps as an activist. I realized that the biggest constraint on my actions is not my ability, my passion, or my intellect; rather, it is time. We all have busy lives, and it can be difficult to find time to give back when we feel like we are just barely getting by.
But I came to the conclusion that most of us can give one hour of our time a week. That’s right—just one hour out of the 168 we are given each and every week.
I realized that I had already done this in one stage of my life. When I was in college, I was part of an organization that required us to complete 15 hours of community service per semester. Coincidentally, that breaks down to—you guessed it—one hour a week. It was totally doable then, even as I was balancing an 18-hour course load, leadership positions in different organizations, and a vibrant social life.
And it’s totally doable now.
There are a number of ways to approach this hour of weekly action.
We can take it literally, and choose to get involved with a community program that has opportunities for one-hour shifts. We can lump our hours together and do a big, four-hour day of service once a month. We can spend half an hour twice a week with our ears to the phone or our pens to paper, reaching out to our elected officials.
We can even take this one-hour approach into the realm of donations. If you’re not feeling prepared or motivated to get involved in a hands-on way, consider donating one-hour of your wages to an organization that is doing amazing work fighting for justice—whether that be economic, racial, gender, or environmental.
Many organizations provide the option of a monthly, recurring contribution at a level of our choosing. I suggest selecting a donation amount equivalent to four hours of your income. Four hours a month breaks down to one hour a week—so if you make $15 an hour, sign up to pledge $60 a month.
If you’re unable or unwilling to get involved in direct service, this is another incredibly impactful means of enacting the changes you wish to see in the world. And this type of ongoing support is actually the best for these organizations, as it allows them to plan and prepare as they strive to meet challenges and confront injustices on a daily basis.
So let’s all commit today to get involved with one hour a week. If you feel inspired to go beyond that, by all means, do as much as you can. But finding the right balance is also important, so that we can serve others, our country, and our world in the most effective way possible.
Let’s commit to one hour just as we committed not to stand idly by at the women’s march. Let’s participate.
Because at the end of the day, we’re not sore losers.
We’re informed citizens peacefully working together to affirm that women’s rights are human rights. That climate change is real. That affordable healthcare is a positive thing for the entire country. That the lives and well being of people of color, LGBTQI folks, immigrants, Muslims and more matter. That profit isn’t more important than people or this planet. That love trumps hate. And that we will not be silenced—ever.
Let’s get to work.
Author: Callie Rushton