Community Activism and the "new" Obama

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For many years of my life I worked at the jobs that came to me, ones that put food on the table and helped pay the bills. When I was in my mid-40’s it occurred to me that I was getting to ‘the age’ where I needed to be thinking more about what I wanted out of life, and my job was part of that.

I tell my sons that the things that make life worthwhile are always part of our heart and our passion. If you can find a way to live with your heart, and your passion, you’ll be a much happier person!

So it was I decided I needed to change careers. I wanted to do something to actually HELP people, in a real way. While I found myself working for a community education center, I think of myself mostly as a community activist. That is my passion, and it is what drives me.

Community activists are defined as people who work on a local level to create positive social change, to help communities solve their problems. It sounds more glamorous than it is. I’d love to share with you how things work here in our little town:

We have problems here like everyone does: homeless issues, lack of low income housing, drug and alcohol abuses, drop-out issues. Those of us who work in the field are aware of all the myriads of problems out there, and the complexity of trying to address them in any positive way.

So when we identify a problem and try to come up with something, we know we are facing a mountain with a teaspoon. Recently I have been working with community members on transitional housing issues and services. And we are in a position where we ‘might’ get a grant to help a few families or individuals a year. A FEW.

Does this mean we think we have solved the problem? Absolutely not, we KNOW we haven’t. We know that this attempt is one little tiny step to help a very few people. But it is a beginning, and beginnings are important. A few years ago we started a new beginning for out of school youth in our town and it has blossomed into something wonderful. Sometimes things work that way, sometimes they don’t. But you start somewhere, because sometimes that is all you CAN do.

Why do I feel like sharing this right now? It all came to mind because of all the criticism Obama has been generating for his ‘small’ changes since he took office. How disappointed everyone is in the President. Didn’t be promise change we could believe in? Didn’t he say he would address Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Immigration Reform (the Freedom Act), Health Care Reform? Aren’t we all sorely disappointed in his paltry accomplishments when he promised so much?
No, I’m not. You know why? Obama was a Community Activist before he became President. He ‘gets’ how this works. He knows that if you wait for a total solution to a problem, you (and the people who need help) will be waiting a long, damn time. Obama understands that sometimes you help 10 people even when you know 1,000 need help, because it is a start, and you have to start someplace.

If I am disappointed in anyone right now it is in the inability of Congress or the Senate to do anything for anyone except themselves and their supporters. I am disappointed in a system that is supposed to be about helping the masses and is, instead, about maintaining the status quo. For the hundreds of thousands of people who do not have much of a status quo, that is a cold comfort. The person I am not disappointed in right now is President Obama. Did people perhaps misunderstand what he meant by “Change”? Probably. But like any good Community Activist, Obama is at least constantly working to achieve SOME kind of positive social change, to help his community with their problems. When everyone who stands in line to criticize him can stand in front of their respective mirrors, look themselves in the eyes and say the same thing, maybe we’ll all be a little better off.

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