Friday, June 14, 2013

Baby Steps to a Better World - Part 1


To those of you familiar with my writing, you know I have a thing for series. This week begins another one, (woo hoo!) though this one isn’t a romance. It’s about something more important.

In addition to being a coffee bean worshipping hockey fan, I’m an activist and philanthropist and I take those titles seriously. Ever since I was old enough to recognize not every kid had a room full of toys and a refrigerator full of food, I’ve wanted to do something to help. For a long time I had no idea how. I tried in fits and starts but could never figure out how to do it consistently. Thanks to the internet and a couple of decades of experience I’ve answered that question and made it my overriding mission in life to make my part of the world a better place. It’s also my goal to show others how easy it is to do the same in theirs.

This week begins a seven-part series on how an average Joe (or Josephine) can do the same thing using nothing more than the resources already at their disposal. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be retired with unlimited time on your hands. You can start right where you are and when I’m finished you’re going to see getting involved doesn’t have to be overwhelming, time consuming or expensive.

The first thing you need is a change in perspective. The world is a mess and figuring out where to start can be frustrating and overwhelming. Thankfully, once you dig past the surface it becomes much simpler than it looks from the outside. After all, we’re not talking about launching a campaign to convince the world leaders at the UN to pull their heads out of their asses. That’s a bit beyond our influence. Instead, we focus on little pieces, dark corners, quiet lives of those who are struggling with existence whether here in North America or in dismal places around the globe. Our focus isn’t the whole world. It’s one person or one group at a time.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Get rid of the excuses. If your interest in social or political change is limited to bitching on Facebook and Twitter then you’re not ready for this. Until you shift your attitude from “someone needs to do something” to “I want to do something” you’re not going to help anyone. And before you start with the excuses let me assure you none of them are valid so don’t bother. Trust me I’ve heard them all. You’re too busy, too broke, you don’t have a talent for anything, you’re too shy, blah, blah, blah. I’m officially calling bullshit on all of that. Everybody has something to offer. There are no exceptions.

Step 2: Feel it. Activism and philanthropy are about recognizing how good you have it and that other people on the planet don’t. Millions of people around the world are in much worse circumstances than most of us could even imagine. The first step to developing a real passion to help them is acknowledging that we’re spoiled by comparison. We have more than we need for no other reason than we were born within reach of it and we’ve been fortunate enough not to have fate take it away again. Don’t mistake fortune for entitlement, people. The universe doesn’t owe you anything.

Step 3: Focus your passion. The world offers a plethora of broken things from which to choose. Don’t spread yourself too thin. There is such a thing as activists’/philanthropists’ burnout. Sometimes you have to ignore other issues in order to keep your sanity and that’s ok. You can’t do everything. Pick a cause or an issue; pick a couple of small ones if you think you can handle it. The goal is long-term dedication because these social problems don’t go away overnight. If anything, the need increases over time.

Step 4: Roll up your sleeves and get involved! This is the heart of the series. You want to help but you have no idea where to start and you don’t have unlimited funds or time. That’s not a problem. Neither do I. You can choose one of the following or any combination and do what you can. There’s something for everyone.

*Small donations – less than $20 a month. I’ll show you how to tell a worthy cause from a cleverly disguised scam. This is a great “buddy donation” opportunity.

*Time – volunteer a few hours a week, a few hours a month or even once a year.

*Online activism – you can do this at home in your jammies and fuzzy slippers. It’s great for people who have the problem of good intentions with limited motivation.

*Join a national or international organization. A larger group has a wider reach to help with bigger issues. I use this for what I call “vengeance donations”. We’ll get into that, too.

*Participate in fundraising - another great one for those lacking in motivation. There are several ways to get involved even if walking/riding/running or sponsoring someone who does is out of reach. It’s also another great “buddy donation” opportunity.

Each week for the next six weeks, I’ll focus on one of these options and give you more details about how to get involved. I’ll also talk about how to maintain your passion over the long haul. When you find something you feel comfortable doing jump on it! Don’t worry if you don’t have the resources to do much. This isn’t a contest. Every little bit helps.
Stay tuned for more!


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