Making A Difference: How Do You Tackle the Big Issues?

There’s Been Good

2016 has brought a lot of great things my way. All of my daughters graduated from school (one from college, two from graduate school). Those celebrations, along with graduations for extended family and friends, have given me a tangible sense of what it means to have a “social season.”

There’s Been Bad

2016 has also been deeply troubling. Violence in my city, my country, the world, continues on what seems to be an inexorable march. The core of my being is shouting, “Stop the madness!”

What Can We Do About It?

I think pretty much all of us feel that way. But the “how” is the hard part. A lot of people are reacting with a loud: “Let’s back up, let’s rewind!” For many, finding a safe space means retreating to be with people who think like them, look like them, have similar experience.

Does Running the Other Way Really Help?

That’s not an inexplicable or necessarily evil response. It is, at least in the short-term, simpler and more manageable. But as a solution, it has its own problems – economic, social, and otherwise. What at first might seem to lead to more stability is very likely to increase instability. In England, for example, just days after a vote to leave the European Union – at least in part based on a perception that this will increase stability – people are learning that they stand to lose significant financial benefits from the EU which may very well translate into lost jobs, a devalued currency, and a decreased ability to export goods beyond their tiny island borders.

What’s The Alternative?

What about the rest of us? What about those who want to take on the hard work of building a community that is inclusive and equitable in treatment of all who choose to live with us, that is diverse? How, exactly, do we go about this?

Martin Luther King once said, “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” This really hits home. But the problems can seem so overwhelming that you don’t know where to begin. I have yet to see a manual with step-by-step instructions.

Do What You Know

I learned something, this week, from the approach of the painter, Grant Wood. He taught art students at the University of Iowa from 1934-1941. His students were grappling with the question: “How do I organize my talents to have an impact on the world?” Wood’s advice was simple: Choose painting, printmaking, sculpture, murals – any of these. But one message was the same for all: Draw upon what you know. And so from his students could come works about mothers and children, revolutionaries and aristocrats, farmers and factory workers. The collective body of artwork being created at that time had a profound impact on the world.

Draw upon what you know. That is how you can have the most impact. You don’t have to take on the whole problem (in fact, none of us can). Others whose experience is not the same as yours will fill your spaces. This is a great organizing principle, one that can soar in a diverse world.

Pass it on to your children.

Share your stories of tackling big issues

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