By Erik Bottcher
“In a Gentle Way, You Can Shake the World.” With these words, Mahatma Gandhi wanted us to understand that each of us has the ability to make a difference in the world, even through small actions.
We live in a chaotic time, dominated by screens that flash terrible news before our eyes, morning to night. Feelings of helplessness abound, especially while we’re at the mercy of a pandemic that seemingly has no end in sight. It’s enough to make someone want to curl into a ball and wait for it to be over.
None of us can change the world by ourselves. But the truth is that small individual acts, compounded by the millions, will do just that.
Here are some simple but important things you can do, right now.
JOIN A COMMUNITY CLEANUP
Every Sunday at 11:30a.m, my neighbors and I have been meeting to pick up litter in our neighborhoods. These Community Cleanups have been a great way to help our neighborhood during this challenging time, while also meeting neighbors and new friends. In the Village, we meet up at NYC AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle (at Seventh Ave & Greenwich Ave.). We focus on a different section of the neighborhood every week. When times are tough, New Yorkers roll up their sleeves and come together. Be a part of these efforts and join us on Sunday! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP and for more information.
ATTEND A MARCH OR PROTEST
One extra person at a march or protest may not seem like a lot, but it makes a big difference. We are living through a historic movement against police brutality and for racial justice, and people are still in the streets, making their voices heard. People are marching for environmental justice, against the Republicans’ unconscionable effort to ram through a Supreme Court nominee, and in defense of democracy itself. Find an opportunity to show up, even if it’s just for a little while. It makes a difference.
JOIN A PHONE BANK (OR RECRUIT A FRIEND)
I don’t need to tell you that the future of the planet is on the ballot this fall. Don’t freak out; get involved! For the past two months I’ve been hosting a ‘virtual phone bank’ via Zoom every Monday night at 5:30 p.m., where we make phone calls to voters in swing states. We’d love to have you! To sign up, visit www.mobilize.us/joebiden/event/295910. If you’re not a phone banker, recruit someone who is. Send an email about this or other opportunities out to your neighbors. You’ll feel great knowing you recruited someone who made hundreds of calls. The impact of this is huge, and it’s how we’re going to defeat Donald Trump in November.
DONATE GOODS TO A HOMELESS SHELTER
In one of the richest cities in the world, a heartbreaking humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes. Every night, nearly 60,000 New Yorkers sleep in New York City municipal shelters. Thousands sleep on the street and in other public places. These New Yorkers are among the hardest hit by this pandemic. Nearly all shelters have a basic set of goods that they always need, including toiletries, new socks and new undergarments. Shelters for women and children often request donations of feminine hygiene products, baby wipes and children’s books. Donations can be brought directly to shelters, like the Bowery Mission. Also consider making a monetary donation to an advocacy organization such as Human.nyc, which is fighting to change the system. These simple acts can make a difference in people’s lives.
This is an incredibly difficult time. So much is out of our control. But remember that whether it’s picking up one discarded coffee cup, helping a fellow New Yorker, or making your voice heard on an important issue, each of us can change the world.
Erik Bottcher is Chief of Staff to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and is a candidate for New York City Council, District 3. His website is www.erikbottcher.com.