Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Collectively Moving Forward

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

The nationwide peaceful protests currently playing out around the world helped so many by uniting to raise awareness of the social injustice that is fractured and out of balance.  What hurts me even deeper, is witnessing the few criminals who sunk to the lowest possible level and resorted to rioting, causing destruction in neighborhoods where businesses were just re-opening from the COVID-19 lockdown.  It is difficult to navigate my feelings of overwhelming disappointment, sorrow, and frustration as my spirit weeps. The country was slowly re-opening businesses during the quarantine, with hopes to closely monitor the spread of coronavirus.  Now for many, those struggling businesses have the added pain of rebuilding their stores that were vandalized by rioters. The destructive behavior of those who looted is shameful.  Violence breeds violence and is never the answer for real change.
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
As an adult, I am constantly devastated by witnessing the senseless acts of violence that are in sharp contrast to the peaceful protests collectively shouting for real change.  Why do we have to settle for screaming from the streets when, yet another life is unjustly taken from us?  Why is this the first thing some resort to as the only way to convey their frustration?  If I am unable to understand why this condition still exists, how am I going to try to explain to my grandchildren why there is so much violence in their world?  The constant inequities for people of color is a constant reminder that somewhere along the way, we have unfortunately forgotten that every life matters.  What can I do?
In my journey, I have witnessed my share of demonstrations of civil unrest, from the mid 1960s to today and yet, for many, the only recourse was to gather in the streets with signs for change.  This method of unrest is temporary and lacks the structure for the possibility of real change unless it is well planned and organized.  I remember watching peaceful protests on TV and in 1962, a coalition of poorly paid migrant farmworkers grew into the United Farm Workers of America who consistently fought to increase wages and improve working conditions for its members.  They not only conducted peaceful protests, but saw that if they were to be successful, they had to organize a united voice to be heard.  Their hard work paid off and because of the commonality in goals and methods, the NFWA and the AWOC formed the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee on August 22, 1966. 
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When I sat in government class 101 in high school, I paid just enough attention to my teacher to get a passing grade.  The clear message was that when we were old enough to vote for the first time, our elected officials would reflect our voice and for effectively representing us at the State and Federal level of government.  But too often we have elected representatives who do not reflect their constituents and ignore the change that they promised to stand up for.  We only have ourselves to blame for not paying closer attention to how our government works.

Do yourself a favor and invest in our country by investing in yourself.  Know who you are voting for and what they stand for.  Do not stop there.  Keep the lines of communication open and hold them accountable for their decisions before and after the election.  They are public servants who work for all of us and need to do the right thing, even when no one’s watching. Before we commit to holding our criminal justice system accountable, we must acknowledge our own ignorance and be willing to embrace and welcome real change with an open heart.  

Leadership is not just executed in government; it is in your own community, get involved and be about the change.  Do not settle for expecting change to happen mysteriously, be willing to collaborate with others and help craft best practices that will replace the broken system we currently have.  Do not stop there, do your homework, invest in your own understanding of how government works and what part you play in that plan.  You are fooling yourself if you think someone else will do it.  My father was a firm believer in civic duty and reminded me that those who get involved in their community are the ones to thank for their commitment.  Cities embrace volunteer involvement when shaping best practices for everyone.  Real change happens when you invest yourself to commit to change, roll up your sleeves and be about it. 
In the meantime, I struggle to focus on the daily activities that still need my attention.  With the COVID-19 crisis still lingering, I am doing my best to be responsible by staying home and staying healthy.  Exercise is a major part of my overall well-being and I look forward to riding my bike or a walking medication to help clear my head and calm my soul.  The recent civil unrest has thrown a monkey wrench in the equation, with mandatory curfews.  Now we are expected to navigate all our outside activities to fit within these additional time restrictions.  

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels
Mental wellness helps us stay in balance with our physical wellness.  With the current civil unrest, the need for a calming, peaceful, rejuvenating outlet is even more important. For some, listening to or writing music can be beneficial, for others writing in a journal or diary can provide an outlet for expressing emotions. Many others use art as a creative expression.  Some will try Yoga for the first time and get hooked on the meditative, calming experience.  The byproduct of meditation can be deep and meaningful healing.  Whatever form of expression you choose, use that energy as your personal empowerment to create something lasting and positive.  Wellness appears in all shapes and sizes, find the one that works the best for you and make it your own.  Wellness is worth wearing proudly. Which new form of creative expression do you suggest, let us know in the comment section below.

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