My dad probably had a file at the FBI because of his quiet but steady leadership activism in civil rights in our town in New Jersey. I really don’t know what he actually did but I do know that lots of people came to meetings at our house at a time when our neighborhood was all white. The visitors stood out.
My father also was active pushing for a new high school and it was an uphill fight because even back in the 1960s no one wanted more taxes. But together with a group of parents, many who taught at Rutgers and others, like my dad, who had a college education, they prevailed and a new school was built in time for my oldest sister to attend prior to her graduation.
We think about legacy most often as the money and things of financial value we will leave to our children, but let me suggest that this penchant to take desire for change and move into some level of action is one of the legacies my father gave to me. Other people bang away on their computers expounding their anger, but few actually get involved in a way to try to help fix the system.
It took me a while to grow into it. I think I started waking up about 8 years ago when I became aware how so much of our food system was tainted with chemicals. Preservatives that kept hot dog rolls from molding, even after a month, caught my eye in the mid 1980s, but I was still unaware of the additional chemicals we all ingest when we eat conventionally raised proteins and produce. GMOs are another bugaboo but simply, pesticides and herbicides cross into our bodies. As their use increased so did, coincidentally, a lot of autoimmune issues, digestive issues, and behavioral issues.
Politics were of minor interest to me. I read the pamphlets from the League of Women Voters and watched the presidential debates on tv. (My daughter Lisa graduated from her high school in Constitution Hall, the location of many early debates, and I discovered it had no air conditioning.) But it wasn’t until the 2008 election that I really started doing my own research about the candidates.
I also noticed during that election season that people who had been close friends no longer were willing to talk to me. They had their political viewpoint and were offended by mine. I never have understood why friends in particular can’t talk through the issues. How else can we understand the “other side”? Surely someone with whom we have a shared history and knows us can explain better than some unknown pundit.
A little over a year ago I met a man running for the state legislature from this district. We got into discussion and I challenged him to explain himself; he responded and we chatted. I saw he had knowledge and ideas for improvement for several things in our community that affect our quality of life. I liked his demeanor, I liked his viewpoint, so I put my action into gear and helped the campaign one day a week.
Getting involved in a local election provides significant information about your town. It actually is a scale where your viewpoint, your opinion, counts. And yet, few people bother.
Some people vote for President and little else. Some vote for other positions but rarely understand who the candidate is and if it is the incumbent, if they have done a good job. We complain about the people in Washington not doing their job. Make sure you know who your Congressional representatives are, how they have been voting and work for them if you like them, or for their opponent if you don’t. Know the same about the people in your state capital, in your county, in your city. Be concerned about the schools even if you don’t have school aged kids. The children are the ones who will be leading this nation day after tomorrow.
Getting involved is actually something each good citizen should be doing. What legacy will you be leaving?