Please don’t get overwhelmed by that question. When JFK first posited it in 1960, the implication seemed to be that you/I/we needed to do something pretty big to help our country. I’m thinking a bit smaller.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that things are not so hot in the U.S. Yes, there is President Trump and choices being made that I don’t agree with. However, there has been gridlock in DC and a cultural ethos of materialism and greed going on for a long time. So, please let’s just move past the political divide and focus on what is being done and can be done to strengthen the ethic of care in our society for all people, communities and the planet, itself.
So, what can I do? A very important role for me is to amplify the good works others are doing. I’ll say more a bit later about that. Perhaps, for you it might mean speaking out more about the positive efforts you are already involved in whether it is on your own, as a friend or neighbor, being part of a larger organization or a member of a faith community.
Yes, I know when someone talks about themselves in a positive way, others might think things like: “Wow, he or she is so full of themselves.” So what, you know differently and folks who know you well do, too. Speaking about your passion and commitment to serve or help others is a powerful way to inspire others and even to educate them about the possibilities that exist. Research studies do show us that being altruistic not only makes a positive difference for others but for ourselves as well. So, please sing your praises loudly, you never know who will hear you and be inspired.
Sometimes, when we do make known the good works of the organizations that we are part of, we do it in a way that puts down or devalues the work of others. I have been part of the nonprofit world since 1974. I know firsthand the turf battles that can exist due to the fear and the reality of the scarcity of funds.
In 1976, I was heading up a program for women in jail and on probation in Tampa. Nonprofit organizations were invited periodically to general meetings with the sheriff to make proposals for discretionary funds. At one of the meetings, after making my proposal, I was moved by the one being made by the Executive Director (ED) of the Girls and Boys Club. When the sheriff announced in that meeting that my organization would receive the funds, I requested that they be given to the G & B Club. It was such an unusual move that there were audible gasps in the room and shocked faces on the sheriff and on the ED but my request was granted.
The ED and I became good friends and at a later funding meeting where he sat on the board granting the funds, he spoke out in favor of our organization. Although, reciprocating is an important factor in building positive relationship, I did not act as I did because of that. Generosity towards others has its own reward.
A wonderful example of nonprofits working together in a collaborative effort is happening in Portland, OR where the Cully neighborhood is on the cusp of gentrification. Neighbors are working together in innovative ways to assure that their low income friends will not be displaced in the process. Four nonprofits gathered together to assist the residents with housing, job training, and Native American youth services. Jeff Gerwing, a professor at Portland State University and member of the Cully Community Advisory Committee tells this story
If we do not put forth the positive stories about our efforts and that of others to improve our society, who will? Certainly, it will not be the media. Too many outlets are consumed with negative news and controversies because that is what sells, unfortunately. That fact also reminds me, that we could demand more positive stories as readers, viewers, and listeners of the news.
For my part, I am deeply committed to amplifying the stories of change-makers around the country, who are making deep seated changes in the economy, education, arts and communities. I hit the road to capture a series of video interviews, which are now available free on our website. I continue to get the word out through social media, speaking engagements, and hopefully even the production of a one hour film to be shown at film festivals and wherever.
Just to let you know, I don’t find being a voice of hope always an easy way to operate. I can get down when I tune into the news in the newspapers, the online stories and the television shows. I do find prayer and meditation help to re-motivate me. However, the biggest boost I receive is the reaction of others when they watch a video or hear my PowerPoint on a handful of the stories. People are so grateful for the hope and inspiration they receive from the positive stories. Not only are their spirits lifted, but they are re-energized to continue their own positive efforts.
So PLEASE share your own positive stories. I sincerely believe that you are part of a ripple effect that will spread and inundate our society with the hope and energy needed to build a future that takes care of all people and our planet.
Author: Jan Roberts, Founder & President Cultural Innovations Agency;Documentarian of Hopeful Solutions Through Videos Stories & Conviviality