Every day I come into my office and one piece of ten dollar décor inspires me ~ a poster with a quote from Walt Whitman. I was sitting here pondering what to write my next piece on for The Advocate and I looked up on the wall and thought: environmental design and its relationship to community work.
My job affords me the luxury, out of necessity, of being informed on current human rights issues both locally and globally. A dear person in my life a few years back pointed out that luxury, sharing with me that though he was very concerned and empathetic for others and wanted to live and act in a conscious matter, his lifestyle was not conducive for creating time to explore these issues. He was looking for ways between time with his children and work to become informed and engaged in human rights work. But the space between life and work was quite limited.
I know he is not alone in that struggle. Since that conversation I have tried to be cognizant of that in my work. But I am afraid that I have mostly failed at developing strategies that require minimal time that do not reduce issues to be meaningless or do not require a load of time or previous information. The issues of the world seem overwhelming at times. I feel that often this very fact is what stops myself and others from venturing into small pieces of work because it never seems like enough can be done to make this world happier and safer. I often feel guilty thinking of all the work that needs to be done at home and abroad, and I cannot shake the feeling like I could be doing something more to make a difference. I remind myself of a Polish proverb: If each person gave a thread, the naked man would have a shirt.
For this issue of The Advocate I thought I would try to come up with some simple strategies that can be incorporated into your daily life without causing too many hiccups.
a) Make your home page a human rights activitst site/blog, i.e., Amnesty International, Care.com, Doctors without Borders
b) Have your home page be an international news site like BBC, CBC, New York Times, or Huffington Post
c) Join email lists for local nonprofits or international/national organizations. This is an easy way to keep informed and become involved with local and global issues. Many groups will include quick two minute actions in their email list such as letter signing or petitions.
d) If you are financially able, choose one charity and give to it monthly or yearly. This is a strategy that allows you to outsource your participation to someone else.
e) Many non-profits, national and international organizations have applications for smartphones. Follow various human rights issues or news sources on Twitter of Facebook
f) Find something that inspires you to walk a good path like a quote on a piece of paper or an amulet, and place it in your wallet, your home, your vehicle or your office. Something as simple as a quote that inspires us to walk a kinder, gentler path is really all one needs to do and is an action of compassion and engagement. The path you choose to try and walk will make a difference to all those who come across it. Community engagement is an ongoing process. We struggle. We fail. We learn. Quotes can be the reminders we need to be inspired and to give us strength. Though the language used on my office poster is a bit outdated, the basic message of the quote provides a framework from which to live our daily life. It challenges us to reflect on our own behaviours, actions, and thought patterns, and it invites us to live beyond ourselves in the community.
Love the earth and sun and the animals
Give alms to everyone that asks
Devote your income and labour to others
Argue not concerning God
Have patience and indulgence toward the people
Take off you hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men
Go freely with powerful uneducated person and with the young and with mothers of families
Read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of you life
Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem
~ Walt Whitman ~