Written by Jennifer Giorgi
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @jejoagio
As with anything that takes up big portions of our life, when it comes to an end we might get a case of post-event blues. The elections coming to an end may trigger feelings of relief or a decision finally being made, fear about what is to come, and confusion as we try to find things to do to fill our time in meaningful ways.
Below is a collection of ideas, some quite specific, and others more broad, of how to stay involved in our communities on every level. It is easier to spread our ideas and principles when we already have built in networks within the communities of which we reside rather than just speaking at people who don’t have any idea who we are. If they know us to be good people and have come to trust us, they will take what we say into deeper consideration.
Bartering is a lost art. Timebanking involves bartering with people in the community. You find or start a timebanking group and list what skills you have to offer (for example: babysitting, tax prep, fitness instruction, trades work, etc.) in exchange for credits you can use in the future towards services which someone else is offering.
Getting involved with a timebank will introduce you to many handy people in the community. On top of making new friends, you may also learn new skills and save some money while you are at it! All it costs to you is some of your time and whatever you decide to contribute.
Check out the Timebank website so see if there is already a group in your area or learn how to start your own.
2. Food Bank
Most food pantries are always looking for all kinds of help. Consider running a food drive, especially during the summer months. In the colder seasons and during the holidays people usually feel more generous so food pantries are better stocked during this time. In the summer they are in need of donations and for people to hold drives to assist. Children of needy families are also out of school for the summer so they are not receiving discounted or free breakfast or lunch so many families are in need of much more food at this time.
If you are unable to donate or organize a drive on your own, many food banks and pantries are in need of volunteers. Volunteers can do many duties ranging from emptying trucks full of donations, sorting donations, and actually helping during pantry hours making sure families in need get what is available to them.
Feeding America is a great website to check out to see what food banks and pantries are in your area. Enter your zip code to pull up local organizations and give them a call or visit their website to see how you can get involved.
3. Little Library
Check your local laws regarding this (or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.) as some towns and cities do not allow such structures even on private property.
Free little libraries are popping up all over the country. Sort of like the “give a penny, take a penny” idea, the owner constructs the little library and stocks it with books. As people come by to take a book to read, they leave behind one of their own for either the library owner or another passerby to take and read.
Check out the Free Little Library for more information on the phenomenon.
4. Community Gardens
Community gardens can be organized in many different ways. Some folks garden and leave fruits and veggies on a table or fruit stand for people to take for free or a small donation. Other people participate in community gardens on common grounds.
Community gardens have different rules so be sure to check them out before participating. Many of them already have tools and supplies stored in a common shed for you to use and others require you to bring your own. Community gardens generally have a website, Facebook page, or at least a contact person you can reach out to to figure out how to get involved. If no existing gardens are available in your area, see about starting one!
5. Stay informed on community issues and vote
Believe it or not, there is more to voting than the presidential election every four years. Stay involved. Participate in midterm elections. Go to town meetings.
Want to be a delegate to the Libertarian National Convention in 2018 or 2020? Most states select delegates during their state conventions and pick from members who are actively involved. Most state LP groups meet only once a month so being involved, even the least amount possible, doesn’t take up too much of your time. There are probably many other ways to stay involved throughout the month, but showing up to the monthly meetings at the very least gets your name out there.
6. Share and do random acts of kindness
Hold the door for people. Don’t tailgate or cut people off in traffic. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the drive through line. Exercise compassion. People around you probably aren’t being stupid on purpose.
What you put out into the universe comes back to you and those around you. If you want people to advocate for peace and anti-war values, demonstrate them. It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind. Choose kindness first always. Basically, don’t be a dick.
7. Take a person experiencing homelessness out for lunch
Go for a walk. Enjoy your city or town. If you happen to come upon a homeless person, ask they if they would like to join you for lunch.
If you believe that individual citizens can do more than the government to do to help those in need, then you should at least make an effort to do something.
You could make a new friend. You could become someone’s mentor. You have the power of being able to change a person’s entire life around, but you won’t know how until you ask. Lunch for two at a local pizza place won’t cost you very much and can likely be ten times as rewarding.
8. Shop locally
While sharing, trading, and bartering is usually ideal, we can’t always get everything we need through these methods. When we must stray from these methods, we can still help those in our surrounding communities by shopping small and local. Instead of padding some CEOs pocket, money spent at local shops goes towards supporting a local family sustain their way of life.
9. Write an op-ed
Many people don’t like to talk politics with family and friends. For some reason, talking politics is a messy subject which often turns to hurt feelings and name calling. I’m not sure why. It totally shouldn’t; but it does.
Writing for a news outlet or blog can be a great way to get your ideas out there without interruption. You certainly could face criticism, but use that to stretch yourself and either reconsider your positions, or conversely make your arguments stronger. As you continue to write, you will learn more through your research than you might have otherwise. It truly is a win-win.
10. Start a share club.
How many items do you own that you only use every once in a while? Or maybe you use it often, but for really short periods of time? If you don’t have to own your own of absolutely everything you need to live, consider joining or starting a share club.
People are sharing items from cars to measuring cups. Make sure contracts are in place to cover things such as storage and maintenance of the item.
Condo communities and apartment complexes are ideal for creating share clubs. For example, say a condo building in the northeast has 200 units. The condo association handles plowing of the parking lots, owners are just responsible for removing the snow that ends up behind and around their car. Either 200 families can each go buy a snow shovel (200 shovels at approximately $20 a piece = $4,000 in snow shovels that will only be used a few times a year) OR, a handful of shovels are purchased and passed around in the Share Club. This can be taken one step further and if share club members are also in the Timebank, they can take the handful of shovels and shovel out other participants cars earning timebank hours they can later cash in for other goods or services. This can save everyone thousands of dollars a year while also lightening the tax burden on everyone involved.