By Terriann Matejcek, Director of Advocacy and Volunteer Resources
On your TV, computer or smartphone, you may come across images of malnourished puppies, impoverished children who should be in school, someone with a disability being bullied or any number of other social injustices. What is your reaction? Are you compelled to act?
When I was a kid, I always found myself cheering for the losing team or the underdog. If I saw a stray cat, I felt it was my responsibility to find it shelter or at least give it some food and water. If I was out at recess and a kid was being left out, I felt compelled to ask him to play. I did not find it hard; I just felt it was the right thing to do.
As I grew older I heard this quote by Miamonides: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” After letting it sink it, I realized how much sense it made. But, that’s much more complicated than handing someone a tuna sandwich!
In high school, I began sending a small amount of money from my paycheck to an animal rights group. I wanted to help, and I thought this was a simple enough way for me to make an impact on a cause important to me. Then one day my friend asked: “Do you know anything about that group? Couldn’t that just be some guy down the road taking your money and spending it at the race track?” I suddenly realized I should be more careful when making donations.
Slowly, I began to feel intimidated by activism. I began to see advocacy as either the work of saints who dedicate their lives to changing global issues or angry activists with signs and a wish to be arrested or hurt for the cause. I became paralyzed with the complexity, enormity and even danger of what I thought advocacy was. It did not feel right to be immobilized in this way.
I became mobilized again when I read Swimmy, a children’s book by Leo Lionni. The story is about a fish, alone and in danger amongst many larger fish. He eventually finds his school and swimming together, they are all safer. Such a simple, easy to understand story!
Yes, advocacy can be simple, and it can be easy if it is done in a collaborative, organized fashion. Something as simple as voting is considered advocacy – you vote on laws and/or for candidates that share your beliefs. All you have to do is show up.
At Hammer we work closely with other organizations and coalitions to advocate for the people we serve and for our profession. We know that collaboration is key and that every letter, every vote, every contribution no matter how simple, makes a difference.
I was able to re-motivate and remobilize; now it is your turn. This coming Tuesday, November 4th, you have the ability to advocate by exercising your right to vote. By participating in this simple activity, you can make a difference!
For more information before you vote, check out Minnesota’s official voter resources website here.