We all have ideas and issues we feel passionate about, but sometimes we feel helpless to influence. It might seem like the vehicle for change is often being bogged down in bureaucracy or tied up in political channels, but your passion is needed and your voice can make a real difference!

For example, in 1980 Cari Lightner was walking home with a friend when a drunk driver hit her from behind and killed her. At the time, there were few legal consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, the man who killed Cari had numerous alcohol related infractions and accidents on his record.

Devastated, Cari’s mother, Candy, founded an organization in her home to work towards stricter penalties for driving under the influence. She called her group, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), and was successful in getting legislation put in place to treat drinking and driving as a serious crime and to increase the national drinking age to 21. In the years that followed, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that upwards of 150,000 lives have been saved by a reduction in the number of drinking and driving incidents, and MADD still works as a nonprofit to help those affected by drinking and driving.

Candy’s story is evidence that fighting for what you’re passionate can bring forth real change. More importantly, any one can do it. Before Candy started a grassroots movement to end drunk driving, she had little experience in politics or social activism.  In an interview with People magazine she even admitted that before founding MADD she hadn’t even been registered to vote. What Candy had was a desire to see change, and a hope that her actions would keep other people from experiencing the same grief and loss that impacted her.

We share this story with you, because while some individuals become inspired by their own life experiences to get involved, a good number of people don’t. They either feel unqualified to take a first step, or incapable of creating a movement loud enough to be heard. The great news is—you ARE qualified. We are all qualified to help make a difference.

Here are 4 simple acts that you can do to help make your town, city, state, country, and even the world a better place:

VOTE

It might seem like you’re casting a stone into an ocean, but voting is one of the best ways to make a difference. We aren’t just talking about presidential elections, though those are very important, but local elections as well. Have you ever heard the expression, “think global, act local?”  Change happens in increments, and like the butterfly effect, a small action can ripple out to affect a larger swath of people and areas. Your local community is where you can make the most difference and change. Helping put the people in place to make sure this change is positive is up to you, so make sure you know when your local elections are taking place. Or better yet…

RUN

For local offices and community boards. If you know what needs to be done, and you see an avenue to help start the ball rolling, take it! You don’t have to have a political science degree to run for office; you just have to have the leadership skills to work with other people to achieve change. Not everyone has the time, with work and family pressures, but if you do—what could be better? Jump in. Present your ideas and motivation to the community, and if people like what they hear, you are one step closer to having great influence in your community and state.   If it’s not feasible for you to run right now, no worries, another thing you can do is…

KEEP INFORMED & STAY INVOLVED

Knowledge is power, and staying tuned into what is happening around you is critical. You know one of our favorite examples is Hawaii’s recent bill to ban harmful sunscreens from damaging coral reefs. The scientific evidence was clear that the sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate were contributing to the destruction of the coral reefs. Instead of waiting for more support, Hawaii was the first to take action.  Though being the first can feel like a daunting, impossible task—it’s necessary to set precedence. Now that it’s been done in one state, we hope other states will follow Hawaii’s lead. In order for that to happen, we have arrived at the last act…

TALK, ARGUE, DISCUSS (CIVILLY, OF COURSE)

New ideas often cause contention, and contention can spark innovative compromise—so, don’t shy away from seeking out conversations with differing minds. Most importantly, don’t back down from fighting for what is right. Voice your opinions, endorse facts, and keep fighting for justice!

We are fighting with you! Together there is no limit to what we can achieve, and there’s no better time to begin than now.

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