These day, election coverage is unescapable. While I am thrilled that some of our front-runners are making “YUGE” gains in raising awareness about the struggles faced by oft-neglected demographic groups and issues, many of the articles and memes don’t capture the full story. Since our news feed is already fully saturated with stories about how candidate X will boost the economy, candidate Y will improve the U.S.’s international standing, and candidate Z is possibly the Zodiac killer (really?), I thought I would focus today on some real talk: What can you do to make America greater in your everyday life?
Advocate for other people. Voting isn’t the only way that you can use politics to improve quality of life in the United States and abroad. If you see government policies that you feel are discriminatory or harmful, speak out against that legislation any way you can – start/sign a petition, write to your congressperson, and make your voice heard.
Support a cause. This may seem obvious, but clearly not enough people are doing it, because the charitable giving rate has hovered at roughly 2% of GDP for more than 4 decades. The more money flows into the social sector, the more nonprofits can accomplish great things, and the more we give the better we feel about ourselves. It’s a win-win situation.
Get involved in your community. Not all of us have extra money to give, but you may find yourself with some free time and a desire to make the world a better place. This can be a great opportunity for you to have a positive impact and build a greater connection with your community through volunteering or getting involved with a community organization.
Incorporate your values into all aspects of your financial life. This isn’t easy, but try to start small by integrating your values into your buying and spending habits. If you’re an investor, consider checking your portfolio and making sure that you are morally comfortable with where your investments are. Are you supporting companies that harm the environment or other people? If you’re not an investor, is it still good just to think about your buying/spending habits and how they impact the world around you. Were the products you buy ethically made?
Be introspective. Think about times when you have excluded others or felt uncomfortable around them on the basis of their race, gender identify, religion, or disability status. You might read this and say “why I’ve never done that, that would be terrible” but think again. None of us are perfect, and a lot of the times we say things that are hurtful to others without even reading it. Remember, most of us are way more biased that we realize. Recognizing this is the first step toward self-improvement.
Get to know people who are different from you. Another way to overcome personal biases, open your mind, and learn how to be a more compassionate person is simply to get to know people who are different from you. Many of us, myself included, grew up in highly segregated communities. Segregation not only hurts the economy, it also makes it hard for people to empathize with supposed “outsiders” or people who are different. If we want to overcome bias in this country, one of the first things we need to do is recognize what truly makes America great – the incredible and diverse group of people who live here!
Tips on advocating for a cause in the face of social stigma can be found here. This blog also contains lots of (hopefully) helpful tips for getting involved with charity and volunteering. As always, thanks for reading!