From Overwhelm to Action

Muslim Capitol Day 2017_optThere’s too much, too fast. The executive orders, appointments, tweets, ethics questions, ICE raids, lies/mistruths/”alternative facts” (?!?). It’s like trying to put out a bunch of fires all at once. It’s like drinking water from a fire hose. It’s like…so much spinning, and a dizzying overwhelm.

I hear ya. I’m feeling it, too.

As individuals, we can’t tackle it all. So what do we do? How do we choose what actions to take, on which issues? 

The best way for each of us to contribute to resisting/advocating/transforming right now is to put our strengths to work in our communities on the issues that hit closest to home.

Here, some questions to help you meaningfully engage in a strategic way from a place of strength.

Focus on your communities.

Not sure which issue(s) to focus on? Get out some paper and a pencil and start brainstorming:

  • What communities are you part of or connected to? (Religious, civic, educational, local, cultural, political, neighborhood, artistic, identity, etc.)
  • Which issues or perceived threats feel most real and pressing to you? Once you’ve identified those, explore a bit. Your fear and anger emerge from a place of love. Write down what you love about the ideas, people, and communities you want to help protect.
  • Where are there strengths and connections—or possible strengths and connections—in and between some of your communities, or in and between your communities and those issues that feel most pressing? Start to draw lines of connection between your issues of concern and your community(ies).

For example: maybe you are worried for new refugee families, and you are a member of a church that collects school supplies and clothes for refugee and immigrant families in your town. Maybe there are volunteer, advocacy, and community education opportunities about refugee issues you can help bring to life in and through that place of connection.

In short, when thinking about which issue(s) to focus on, it’s best to start where you are. Which issues are most affecting your geographic area, or your communities of belonging or identity? Where are there connections between and among your communities and your issues of concern? These are the most fruitful places to focus your time and energy.

Focus on your strengths.

Not sure which action(s) to take? Fill up any blank space on your brainstorming paper with answers to these questions:

  • What talents do you have? Are you a…writer, an artist, a relationship-builder, a cook, an event planner, an envelope sealer, a social media guru?
  • What gifts can you bring? Do you have a big house in a central location, or maybe a ranch house out in the country? Both could be ideal meeting or retreat locations for a group. Do you have money to donate? Lots of good organizations and initiatives need funding right now. Do you have pecan trees in need of pie makers? Volunteers do their best and happiest work when they are well fed!
  • What brings you joy? Are you happiest in front of a computer by yourself, or does working with others feed your soul? Connect back to your list of talents. How can you use your talents in ways that also bring you joy?

Connect the dots.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner

Listing our strengths and locating ourselves in our community(ies) can help us identify the issues and the action strategies that will be most meaningful and impactful. Where there are connections between our strengths, assets, interests, concerns, and communities—that is where it makes the most sense for us to engage.

And remember: all of this—our fear, our anger, our sleeplessness—it’s all about ideas and places and people we love. So keep the love in your resistance, and try to find ways to contribute that also bring you some joy. Sharing a meal with others while you’re writing letters to elected officials, for example, makes advocacy taste a whole lot better.

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