Showing up in person

In the aftermath of last November’s election, I started attending far more political events than I ever had before. I joined groups that were just forming and groups that had been around for decades. I made signs and attended marches. I listened to speeches by experienced activists. Showing up for causes that I believe in started to make a difference in how I experience my daily life.

My newfound motivation is summed up best in this advice post about Trump by a psychologist: “We do good things because they are good, but results are not guaranteed.” Most of the beliefs I’m advocating for right now are things that have been important to me for decades, if not my entire life. What deterred me before wasn’t thinking that something didn’t matter; it was thinking that my own actions wouldn’t help. I wanted more immediate gratification than I could realistically expect. I ran a service organization on campus and I phone banked for a candidate I believed in and I became a peer counselor on a crisis line. Then I got discouraged and wondered whether I had actually improved anyone’s lives. And then I convinced myself that I needed to take care of myself first, which was technically true, but I didn’t actually make a plan for how to resume taking care of others.

Six months after the election, I’m revisiting President Obama’s words from his farewell address: “I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.” This is still tough for me. My guess is that I’ll be battling complacency and fear for a very long time. But I’m trying to believe in the people around me and to spend my time working alongside them. Seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and relying on their strength… it’s not a magic cure, but I think it helps.

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