How much does it cost you to participate?
I'm a busy guy. I work full time, have kids to raise, dogs to train, a house to maintain, vehicles to keep going, and a dozen hobbies from my younger days that get dusted off a couple of times a year. My wife and I do our best to help each other keep our household running and still strive to periodically enjoy each other's company in a context beyond toiling side-by-side on a never ending task list. This isn't a complaint - I like keeping busy - rather it's an explanation as to why I usually shy away from taking on additional commitments.
I am not proud to say that my reluctance has extended to what I consider worthy causes. Fantastic social, political, and environmental organizations are out there doing great things, yet I've rarely participated beyond sometimes writing a yearly check. I've told myself it would be cheating both the organization and myself since I could only participate halfway and, between you and me, I worry that my other responsibilities will suffer if I take on any more projects.
This year the MomsRising organization started a drive to get a paid family leave act made into law in our state. My wife came up with a great way she and I could support this effort with minimal investment from us. We made a new year's resolution to wear only Mom's rising logos every day until paid family leave passed in Washington state. We wear shirts every day so switching to a specific design wouldn't be much of a burden, and we hoped we would be enough of a media novelty to draw attention to the cause. I am happy to report that we were successful and, after 5 months of nothing but the Mom's Rising Rosie, our wardrobes have variation again.
I blogged about the experience (http://onedadrising.spaces.live.com ) and I also ended up presenting to House Speaker Chopp, participating in some planning meetings, delivering cookies to legislators on the eve of a vote and setting up an impromptu onesie decorating factory in my back yard. In hindsight this sounds like a huge investment but through it all, I had a nagging feeling I wasn't doing enough. For every event I joined there were half a dozen rallies, strategy sessions, promotional projects or proofreading requests I couldn't help with.
Initially it was hard for me to stop focusing on what I *wasn't* doing but I soon saw for every opportunity I passed, there were ten other Mom's rising volunteers stepping up to make it happen. The flow of volunteers seemed endless, as people contributed what they could. Some people read updates on the websites and wrote a single email when a reluctant house member needed persuading, some donated onsies for the display in Olympia, some people attended every planning meeting or drove to the capital multiple times to talk directly with lawmakers about what was important to Washington voters. With nothing more than free email and a few websites, I saw separate groups of supporters conceive an idea, work out the details and make it happen within a week. All of these little efforts by so many people added up to a huge impact.
We took a bill that the smart money said would take years to pass and had the governor signing it into law within 5 months. We garnered *worldwide* attention for the struggles most families face juggling home, work and family responsibilities. We inspired US presidential candidates to consider the Mom's Rising platform as campaign planks for their 2008 bids for office. Most importantly we made it possible for more new parents to be home with their children when they really need each other. The benefits of this possibility will reach far beyond the boundaries of that little family and the time those parents can spend taking care of their kids.
I feel great about being a part of it all and, after this experience, I am a strong believer in the power ordinary people have to make change through a little participation and cooperation. The rewards of getting involved far outweigh the cost of stepping in and stepping up. I'm looking for my next opportunity to make a difference.
What can you do to make your world a better place?
I guarantee it will be worth it.
-- Ken Zick