positive: constructive; helpful; being with reward
action: something done or performed; energetic activity; an exertion of power or force
advent: a start to something, an arrival, a beginning
Thursday night, I yelled at my husband. We were having a heated discussion about pretty much the only thing we ever have heated discussions about: this crazy world we live in and the utterly inadequate responses of our leaders and media outlets to that craziness.
I have never been a yeller. My parents did not yell at each other when they argued about things, and I have always prided myself on my ability to fight fairly and reasonably, without losing my cool.
I yelled because I’m angry. I yelled because I’m unspeakably horrified. Because I cannot fathom how two people would leave their six month old baby at home to go on a shooting rampage killing co-workers. Because I cannot understand how someone who claims to be “pro-life” could take aim at people in a Planned Parenthood clinic—or how other “pro-lifers” could say those people deserved to die. I yelled because I’m scared, because I’ve found myself wondering, if only for a moment, whether some wacko will decide to shoot up the next movie I decide to go see. I yelled because I’m disgusted by all the supposedly reasonable gun owners who shrug off any responsibility, saying different regulations or tighter controls on ammunition purchases won’t work, bad things will still happen, violence just is.
I yelled because I’m frustrated. Because I’m heartbroken. Because if I don’t yell I’ll just curl up into a ball and weep, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop.
I yelled at Steve because—he was there.
A terrible reason. But I’m bewildered. There’s all this horror happening, and no one seems willing or able to do anything about it. Our elected officials pontificate and point fingers, but they don’t do anything of substance. The media encourages polarization and perpetuates stereotypes because divisive rhetoric gets more readers and more clicks. I feel sad and mad and powerless, and so I yelled at my husband because no one else is listening.
This, of course, is what all the fearmonger-ers, foreign and domestic, want. To divide us. To isolate us. If real dialogue becomes impossible, we’ll never be able to band together and demand real change, real accountability.
Thursday night, I yelled at my husband. But he doesn’t deserve to be yelled at. Today, I reject impotent rage and offer a different response: the Take Positive Action alternative “advent” calendar.
I owe a debt here to the lovely Random Acts of Kindness Advent calendar circulating on the internet. It’s a beautiful idea; the world absolutely needs all kindness we can give one another. But we also need social action. We need the solace of art. “Bombing” a parking lot with candy canes will surely bring smiles, but we need actions that will defuse the bombs, literal and metaphorical, being built by destructive political and religious ideologies, desperation, and disenfranchisement.
There is strength and power in community, so I urge you: don’t stop with small acts of kindness. Take action. After all, what greater kindness can we do one another than changing the world for the better?
I realize the official season of Advent is already underway, but this is a secular calendar, and there’s no reason we should stop taking positive actions on December 25th. The list below simply starts with number “1”; the calendar version shown above and available as a printable PDF here– Take Positive Action 2015 –begins today, December 6th. If you start today, these 26 positive actions will carry you into the new year.
Take Positive Action Every Day
1- Research and make a contact list that includes names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers for your elected officials at the national and local levels. Add emails and phone numbers to your contacts to make it as easy as possible for you to make your voice heard.
2- Apply to mentor a young man or young woman through the Boys & Girls Club or another organization. Be a role model.
3- Contact your congressional reps and ask them to end the Dickey Amendment, which restricts research on gun violence. Good decisions require good data.
4- Find a local aid agency that can match you up with a needy child whose holidays you can brighten with gifts of toys, clothes, or other items.
5- Celebrate beauty to keep things in balance: visit a beautiful place, or make something beautiful.
6- Socks are some of the items most needed and least donated to homeless shelters: drop off a package today.
7- Take cookies or a tin of tea to someone in your neighborhood you’ve seen around but never gotten to know, or join your neighborhood organization if you have one.
8- Find out if your locality has a Citizens Police Academy and sign up to get to know your local force and the challenges they face. Establish a positive relationship proactively.
9- Shop at one of the merchants listed on the “anti-gun company” list, merchants who believe in reasonable regulations, then post on social media telling them why you support their business.
10- Find out when your local city council or equivalent meets, attend, and introduce yourself. Many national politicians start at the local level; get to know them.
11- Visit change.org and sign a petition to stop the GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s health care, or express your support for another human rights campaign.
12- Donate toys (board games, Legos, G-rated movies are good choices) to children hospitalized in mental health wards.
13- Find out what refugee resettlement agencies are at work in your area and what you can do to help refugees integrate and feel welcomed.
14- Read a reputable, informative book like Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History to combat the hype and misinformation swirling around social and mainstream media.
15- Invite someone from a different faith, cultural, or political tradition to a dialogue, preferably face-to-face, perhaps over coffee. Ask questions. Practice listening—listening can be liberating.
16- Take care kits with gentle soaps and lotions to local nursing home residents, or visit the veterans at a nearby VA hospital. Ask them to tell you their stories.
17- Hold your own party, religion, state, etc. and its representatives accountable to a higher standard. NRA member? Lobby for reasonable limits on ammunition purchases. Christian? Tell Falwell, Jr. his remarks about shooting “Muslims” are way out of line.
18- Answer, with action, Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg’s question: “What if we loved black people as much as we loved black culture?”
19- Invest in a microfinancing organization like Kiva or Opportunity International, which support low-income entrepreneurs, especially women, build and grow sustainable businesses.
20- Send or offer a thank you for the gift of someone in your life.
21- Art, the creative, is an antidote to the destructive. Buy something from a local artist.
22- Send a note of support to a legislator who has taken responsible action, like Missouri state representative Stacey Newman, so she and others know we see their good work.
23- Drop off a bag of dog or cat food—or just some old towels—to a local animal shelter. If you have the resources, consider fostering a rescue animal.
24- Donate to public radio, the closest we have to an independent news outlet and the least rabid, most civilized news coverage available in the U.S.
25-Where can your skills best serve? Seek out and sign up for a volunteer opportunity for the new year.
26- You can’t save the world if you can’t save yourself. Do something that renews you: take a walk, book a neglected medical appointment, get a massage, or meditate—whatever suits.
E.M. Forster admonished us, so many years ago: “Only connect.” Even if each of us only managed one or two positive actions a week and spread them throughout the coming year, we’d be making the world a better place.
If people are the problem, as so many keep saying, then they are also the solution. ‘Tis the season.
Please share this post and/or the PDF version of the calendar: Take Positive Action 2015