If not you, then who? If not now, when?
This famous line keeps floating through my mind as 2020 unfolds. The first eight months of this year have brought challenges to our communities, our country, and the world that have left us feeling helpless and uncertain. An underlying sense of angst has taken up residence in even the most resilient of us, leaving us wondering how this will turn out.
But the more this phrase rolls around in my head, the more I am convinced that the way to combat these feelings is to get involved. In times of crisis, it is natural to feel threatened and turn inward, hunker down, and protect yourself. And while these are normal feelings, they are not productive long-term, for you or your community. And while there are many things you can’t control; you can control how you respond to them.
If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
At its heart, this phrase encourages action. Now. Decide you are not going to sit around in your turtle shell, hoping this will pass and figure out how you can make a difference; because your community needs you–now.
Doing something good, right where you are, can shift feelings of helplessness and uncertainty into those of happiness, gratitude, and connectedness. It can help you feel a measure of control over the seemingly uncontrollable and benefit both you and your community.
You are an essential part of the solution, to a brighter future, whether you believe it or not. We can all do something to make things just a little bit better. And if we want to turn the tide on the issues we face in 2020 and create lasting change, then, in fact, we must.
Keeping our communities and ourselves healthy and strong depends on all citizens’ active engagement, contributing as they can to make it work. Consider your story, your gifts, and your community and decide how you can positively contribute.
Step 1: What’s Your Story? Think about what you care about and who inspires you. What significant life events shaped you and what you are good at, and how does that translate into contributing to your community? Knowing yourself creates a strong foundation for making decisions about how to give back. We don’t often take the time to think about how we got to where we are today and what that means for our role in improving the common good, but it is the first step toward meaningful community engagement.
Step 2: What Are You Good At? Identifying your time, talent, and treasure is a helpful next step. You and your gifts are unique, and you can use them to impact your community and the issues you care about. By identifying your time, talent, and treasure, you can create a working list of how you can best serve. As Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of your life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Step 3: Define Your Community. As the most interconnected generation of humans to live on this planet, we all belong to a variety of “communities.” We most often think of a “community” as the place we live; our town, city, village, or suburb. But a community can be any issue, interest, or place that brings people together in one space or around a collective idea. Communities are “places” where you connect with others such as a neighborhood, church, school, workplace, service club, or social group. Communities of all kinds provide ideal opportunities to get involved and make a difference.
Step 4: Connect the Dots. You can’t do everything, nor would you want to. Taking the time to identify your beliefs, motivations, and gifts allows you to have a more significant impact. People get involved in things they care about and places where they feel they can add value, so looking at yourself, your community, and what is important to you lets you start connecting the dots to discover where to spend your do-good energies.
To address issues that threaten to overwhelm us, Nebraska communities and their people need to act. You don’t have to be a community development expert, hold a position of power, or have some unique background or education to make a difference. You just have to be someone who cares.
If not you, then who? If not now, when?
Don’t wait; your community needs you.
Tammy and Brandon Day own Daycos Inc., which provides revenue management for transportation service providers across the country. Her work focuses on Daycos4Good, which uses the business as a force for good. She is a member of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and is active in the Connie Fund, Stand for Schools, and Women’s Network of Nebraska. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.