I try to follow as many social apps as possible, not necessarily to post about my day or share pictures of what I’ve had for lunch (though I have done that on a few accounts), but also to listen and hear others and their stories. The Nextdoor app is a great source for me to listen to other community members in my area. At times I chime in, other times I just read.

Often I hear in conversations that people are upset over some very important topics ranging from the speeders and much needed road upgrades to improving our education system and keeping much needed community programs in our area. There are even specific items like wanting or not wanting certain developments in your area or asking that a law be created or removed for specific reasons. Whatever the conversation, we can’t expect much to change just by acknowledging and talking about it to our friends over coffee or online.

So what do we do? Do we just go online and complain, hoping the right person comes along and says, “I can fix this!  Let me take it on!” Do we start doing more drastic measures by initiating violent and destructive acts to prove our point that we are fed up? Do we put ourselves in dangerous positions hoping that things will finally be improved once enough people get hurt?

No, none of these are acceptable. The first thing we need to do is take our concerns away from Facebook and Nextdoor and bring them to City Hall, County Commission, and our State Legislation. Hit the streets and ask the community to come together to stand up for what you believe in  It could be as simple as taking time to collect enough signatures to petition that our laws get changed or decisions be made to better our community.  However, don’t expect your neighbor to do it.  It’s up to us to stand up for what is right.

So where do you start? Well, the first thing is to get fired up. Find a reason to stand up and fight for what you believe in. Start catching the interest of others by building a story. If you want to find a way to slow down drivers in your area for example, don’t just say, “These drivers are getting out of hand, they are going way to fast and it’s making me mad that they don’t obey the posted speed limit where I live.” Instead build a story about it. Talk about a recent situation where “a student almost got hit by a speeding car in a school zone as she was walking in a crosswalk. The driver was going too fast and didn’t have time to react because they were going too fast and, had the girl not been watching the traffic, she would have been seriously hurt. This sort of problem is happening more often in our area and we need to see to it that it stops before a life, possibly your own, is lost.”  

With this kind of approach, go out and meet with others. Share your story and you may end up hearing about others who have a story of their own. This is when you start a petition and collect as many signatures and stories as you possibly can. Don’t just make it about collecting signatures, make it about the purpose you are working towards.  

How does one start a conversation if we don’t have the means to take situations into our own hands with a fellow neighbor? How do we confront someone who is part of the problem in a civilized manner? Try getting their buy-in using a What, What, Why method. What I observed is this...What I am asking is this… Why this is important is this… For example if you are confronting a neighbor who is speeding in your area you could try this:

“Dear neighbor, what I observed is that you were speeding dangerously in our area. What I am asking is that you help us keep this area safe by providing ways to help remind other drivers that this community belongs to all of us and we don’t want to see anyone get hurt. Why this is important is because we all want to come home safe at the end of the day and while I understand how eager you are to get to work or come home, please help us remind others that we need to work together to ensure everyone is safe. You can help by signing this petition to ask our city officials to help us create some safety measures…”

Other things you can do include raising funds for a cause or starting organizations or movements to help build up an awareness on a topic. There are many things you can do but I’ll save how to initiate some of these ideas for another article.  

The next step after reaching out to the community is to bring our concerns to our local government for help in solving the situation. This is part of their job as local leaders to help us create a community we want to live in. It’s also their responsibility to help guide us in the direction and/or provide tools or resources so that we can effectively seek out these changes with the ultimate goal of success. We may also be asking our local leaders at this point to advocate for us by taking it to the next step where they should then be acting in our best interest and being our voice.

Ok, so that sounds great and even if we do stand up for our community, what if we have local leaders that either have their own prerogative or just won’t listen?  

That one is the easy question to answer. VOTE!  Vote out the leaders that aren’t leading and aren’t listening. Vote out the ones who won’t stand up for us!  Vote in those that will represent you, who will listen to your concerns, who will help you stand up for what is right. Not sure sure who that is? Ask, listen, learn, then tell!  

Ask the candidates where they stand on topics that matter to you.  Listen to your neighbors or go to forums where the candidates speak. Learn about each candidate, regardless of their political party, and base your decision on their values. Ask yourself if they are willing to set aside their point of view so that they can speak in your defense. If they don’t make it easy to learn about them, that should tell you something too. Tell others who are still deciding, about candidates that you like so that you can create an awareness because just one vote won’t make as much of a difference as a few thousand. And if there are no candidates running? Maybe consider running yourself or encouraging someone you know to be part of the solution!

We have some serious issues that need to be addressed and it all depends on you AND your neighbors. Regardless what community you live in, it boils down to you standing up for what is right and making a difference in your community. It may be a challenge in some situations but our society was never built on a free ride. Besides, you never know, it could be as simple as just talking to your neighbor. Try it, try it all, and see where it leads you!