Mental Health · Personal · Social Justice

20 Simple Ways to Add Goodness to the America We Now Face

Many of us are worried about what’s to come (and what’s already happened). Perhaps that’s an understatement for you; perhaps it’s not your story at all. Personally, I’m terrified, but I recently came back from a life-changing trip to Israel and occupied Palestinian Territories that taught me so much about the possibility and reality of reconciliation in a hostile environment where people seemingly have every reason not to work for peace. I’ve brought home a stubborn sense of hope and heart behind the work we will have to do together as a nation, the work that I will do to feel more empowered than I do terrified. Regardless of your personal connection to the anxiety, frustration, and numbness that many are feeling, here are some easy ways to add light in a difficult world.

  1. Be generous with your resources, however plentiful or limited they may be. Give radical hospitality to the people in your life. Invite people over for dinner or a cup of tea, and listen to their stories. Food and drinks build relationships and communities, and your time is the most precious gift you can give.
  2. Speak kind words to others. Tell others that you love them and care about them. Compliment strangers and acquaintances on their lovely wardrobe choices, smile, or something else you’ve admired for a while, but were afraid to say.
  3. Take time to listen to narratives you disagree with, and give people, their motives, and character the benefit of the doubt. As Tent of Nations in the Palestinian West Bank taught me, refuse to be enemies.When you get to know your enemy, they are no longer your enemy. Do not be pro-one side or political party or another. Be pro-justice, whatever that looks like in each situation.
  4. Drive unaggressively. Let people who seem to be in an uncomfortable rush go in front of you in line. Wish well on every person you pass, regardless of the temptation to judge them for the small snippet of their life you’re witnessing. Add calmness to a world that all too often runs at a frenetic pace.
  5. Make sure that you’re spending time with many kinds of people, not just those who think, look, act, and worship like you do.
  6. Denounce hateful behavior wherever you go, but denounce the action, not the person. Treat them like a person who has made a mistake. Learn how to be an active bystander who can intervene. 
  7. Use your body and wardrobe as a canvas for your thoughts.
  8. Forgive others for the small offenses that we do to each other on a daily basis.
  9. Engage in discussion about differences in person rather than on social media.
  10. If you feel yourself getting angry at someone, count to 5 before responding. Be willing to walk away for a while, if you feel that there is simply no way that you could be kind in the current moment.
  11. Patch up relationships that are worth the effort. Say goodbye to those that aren’t.
  12. Fact check your news sources. Twice. There will be enough worry from real stories; you don’t need it from sensationalized ones, too. Take the time to build open, nuanced, and informed opinions on different issues. Be willing to say that you don’t know enough to comment on others. Pick your news sources carefully to begin with.
  13. Make time to get in touch with your legislators if you are particularly worried about something that’s on the docket.
  14. Get some of your fear and frustration out by volunteering with a worthwhile organization or donating money (even just a dollar) to charities that serve marginalized groups whenever the new administration threatens their liberties.
  15. Pray or hope for him to be a far better president than many are expecting. We all deserve the best. Don’t spend the next 4 years trying to be “right” about things; wish for circumstances that will provide the most justice, hope, and goodness to as many Americans as possible. Do not laugh at people who regret their vote. Their pain is real.
  16. Find common ground with people you never expected to agree with, and work with them on a common cause. We will all need to work together to make the next 4 years as passable as possible.
  17. Go to community events. Get involved in work that will improve your neighborhood. Attend interfaith events. Join a local activist group. Build bridges where it’s all too easy to build walls. Refuse to fall prey to believing stereotypes about groups that you’re less familiar with.
  18. Take time to listen to your friends who are distressed about the state of the nation. Open your ears and heart deeply without a feeling of needing to fix anything or give them unsolicited advice, contrary notions, or comforting words. Just be with them.
  19. If you feel like going a little bit above and beyond, you can learn more about how to be an ally to specific groups that have the most reason to be scared right now: People of color (black, Native American, Latinx/Hispanic, and Asian), immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA folks, disabled folks (with physical and/or mental illnesses), religious minorities (Muslims and Jews), women (especially survivors of sexual assault and those seeking reproductive healthcare), climate change fighters, and journalists.
  20. Lastly, take care of yourself. You cannot serve others when you do not feel served. You cannot fill others with an empty bucket. Learn what relaxes and satisfies you and do it regularly. Sleep enough so that you can face each day feeling more equipped for what’s to come. Make yourself a bad moment bag for when you need a pick-me-up. Figure out your priorities and give your heart fully to what you do. Watch comedy shows and movies that have nothing to do with current events. Take strategic breaks from social media and your phone. Work out. Find a creative outlet and let go of the need to make it perfect. Eat well and stay hydrated. Keep a gratitude journal. Talk to loved ones when you feel overwhelmed. Keep moving forward, even when you wonder if you can.

 

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