VOTE WITH YOUR POCKETBOOK
Thursday afternoon I was strolling through downtown St. Petersburg with a friend. It was a beautiful, warm, breezy, Spring day. The city was humming with activities and pedestrian's conversations. A rally was being held in the park. Waitresses and waiters were hustling along the sidewalk's many restaurants keeping customers fed and happy. As my friend and I approached the street corner, we were greeted by two young college students. They asked, if we could make a $20 monthly donation to help their cause. They proceeded with a well rehearsed and articulate five minute speech, which lacked not in fervor or conviction. All I could focus on, was the recent bombardment of dozens of requests for donations from every organization I have ever signed up with.
My involvement in these various organizations emerged from my desire to support causes I felt important and valuable to common concerns. I also wanted to be further informed and aware of important issues. However, it seems to me that lately, each of these organizations (other than the one or two times when I was asked to write a letter, call or sign a petition) mostly want my money. I am keenly aware that my support oftentimes requires a donation. I believe in being generous where one can and I am.
My friend at this point proceeded to kindly explain, that she was already giving and helping numerous other causes, as the two ardently leaned into their appeal for a donation. That was the moment, I could no longer hold back. "First of all, thank you for standing here and helping a cause you believe in, but here is what I have to say: I am tired of being asked for money. Each day my e-mail box is full of requests for small donations , which if added up would be a lot of money I don't have. I imagine most of us live on a budget." Ok. maybe that was coming off a little too biting and I do realize they were just doing their job. However, I had reached an inevitable need to speak my mind and proceeded doing so respectfully. "I think what you two are doing is great, but maybe as another option to asking people for money, you could give us an action item. Something small, yet significant that we can do to make a difference, because that is what we all want, to make a difference." The young man had an immediate come back: " I understand what you're saying ma'am and we've tried that, but it doesn't work! People do not want to stay involved with any cause for more than a day. They don't care enough about any one thing. It's much easier for them to sign up for a regular donation and not have to think about it anymore. With the money we collect, we can hire lawyers and lobbyist. They can help change the laws and that's what makes the difference."
I carefully considered what he was saying and yes I agree that laws and legislation are important. Yet laws are not enough in changing attitudes and the cultural atmosphere. They are less likely to be adhered to, more likely to be overturned or even fail to pass in the first place. Having an opportunity to be engaged is tantamount to being heard and counted. Small action items are a great way to engage and allow us to make a contribution. People do give a damn! Several other pedestrians approached and my friend eager to go see the band we came to hear, let me know it was time to move on.
So here I am reaching out to people, knowing that you and I do care. We have the power in the way we consume. That has been evident again and again. Where we buy our food, fill up our cars, take our meals or hang out matters. Large corporations may run the country, but we run our lives. They can not exist without our pocketbook. We are the workforce and the buying force.
Back during the industrial revolution, the factory owners became aware of this very quickly. They established communities around the factory, so people would rent housing, buy their products, and thus increase the factory owner's profits. They even established schools in those same communities to further tie workers in. We have the power in our hands to change "business as usual." Protests and rallies have their place. Donations are needed at certain times and all the other ways you choose to support your cause matters. However, we can make our values known in the day to day small actions we take.
Gandhi understood the power of the people. When he urged the people of India to stop buying their fabrics from Great Britain and instead weave their own cloth, it hurt the pocketbook of the great empire and it mattered.
"In a gentle way you can shake the world" ~ Gandhi