Grassroots Game Changers

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Have you ever been a part of something bigger than yourself that took moments, hours, days, months and even years to process? After this weekend’s events, I’ve needed to take a little time to reflect, rejuvenate and remind myself how incredibly lucky I’ve been to feel such waves of gratitude and encouraging interactions with the universe. Three different Novembers, three different cities, and three different mediums for change have affected and influenced my life. Each has catapulted me in different directions of inner thought, social activism, and sent me on a path of working to make the world a more hopeful, positive, kind and equal place.

This past weekend, I was involved in one of the largest demonstrations the US has ever experienced. Around many cities in the country and across the globe, people took to the streets to share their views on equal access, equal rights, equal treatment of people, environmental protection and the elimination of hatred against humanity. I was honored to be a part of the organizing committee working with over two hundred volunteers and reveling at the support of my chosen city when over 40,000 marchers came out to support the causes they hold dear.

I woke up on the morning of November 9th thinking, like so many others, that I now lived in an alternate universe and that the country I believed in, grew up in and have lived in with my husband was filled with a majority of views that are the antithesis of my own. Gut-punched, gobsmacked, floored, distressed, and disgusted were words and feelings that swirled around – and then I went to a yoga class. Through teary-eyed asanas, there was a bit of a shared belief of utter dismay and halt in progress but the poses and the mindfulness methods began to help. Class ended and seeing the still unfocused and bleary -eyed faces, the teacher suggested we each try to find one thing to do, one way that we can make a difference today, tomorrow and each day forward. A few days later I went to a volunteer meeting, a few weeks later I was a chair of a committee then on the executive committee and this weekend privy to be a part of something so much bigger than I could ever have imagined. Set in San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza, the grassroots movement hoped people would come to see our program and be part of this march. We expected 3-5000 people; we got over 8 times that many. Shared beliefs are still there, and that alternate universe I thought existed is definitely not a majority – I saw it in the faces and signs, heard it in the voices of millions and felt it as love and hope rose above the political noise. This experience has shifted my focus.

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I have been trying to process the experience since then. It reminded me of the autumn of 2012 and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. My city, Long Beach, NY was flooded with water on all sides, people were struggling, there was no safe drinking water, no toilet access, no electricity and it was freezing. By the whisper of wind and wave, it could have been any of us. Our community needed help. That November, hundreds flocked to the ice arena (which no longer held any ice) to volunteer for hours, days and weeks in a cold, cement-floored arena. Each volunteer held one shared thought in mind – helping someone. Out of the awful came good. People came from everywhere with whatever they could carry. Some had food, some had clothing, some had items for infants and pets, some brought truckloads, some brought manpower and everyone came filled with hope for a better tomorrow, a positive attitude and a desire to make someone else’s life a little better, a little easier and a little more hopeful. We expected a little bit of help – we got endless amounts from agencies, groups and people. That experience changed my life.

The ‘being a part of something bigger than myself’ experience happened early in life. I went to Brandeis University, known throughout its history as being a haven for social justice, activism and political protests. Courses in social justice peaked my interest and four years of charitable involvement and community service were part of my education. In the start of my senior year, the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated. In another November and another grassroots movement, students and community members across the Boston community pulled together a rally in Copley Plaza. With the theme of ‘Peace by Peace: Put an End to Violence’, thousands stood in the freezing Boston winds listening to the words of world Jewish leaders and the voice of Camilla Sadat who all shared their desires to promote a better and more peaceful world. That bitter cold evening in my university city home is over twenty years ago and I can still feel the power of the movement, the way it made me feel and the frostbite that was well worth getting on my little toes.

Each experience made me better. From each experience, I have been lucky to have met people with shared beliefs, like-minded motives and endless kindness who have not only impacted their movement or adopted city, but have changed my perspective and challenged me to continue to believe in the good, promote hope, act with kindness, have progress in mind and keep love in my heart. I am filled with gratitude that from each experience, I have been gifted life-long friends. The relationships may have started with a shared experience, but they’ve continued to flourish through coffee dates, travel adventures and new partnerships for positive change. I am honored to have been a part of each of these experiences and to feel that somehow I played a small part in something so much greater that touched the lives of many. Each experience began with disbelief, destruction and even death. Somehow, out of the darkness came a brilliant light.

-LEAD WITH HOPE-ACT WITH KINDNESS-CHOOSE LOVE-LIFT OTHERS UP-

-DON’T GIVE UP-FIND YOUR PASSION-JOIN THE PROCESS-

-BE THE CHANGE-

 

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