Last year was all about changing me; this year it's all about changing the world.
A year ago my New Year's resolutions were like those of a lot of young women: I resolved to meditate five minutes every day, work out at least three times a week, and be more mindful and present in my life. They were good goals, and I'm not sad I spent a year focusing on my internal self. But this year? Oh, this year is going to be very different. And I can sum up the reason in one word: Trump. (Related: How to Reset After a Truly Awful Year)
This past election was a very emotional one, and it changed how I saw a lot of things—and people. It made me realize that because the president-elect has said and has shown that he will target minorities, doesn't care about the environment, and puts business interests over people, I no longer have the luxury of worrying just about myself and my family. Besides, I'm happy with my inner self, and now is a good—crucial—time to shift my focus outwards. My resolutions this year include combating climate change and being more vocal about social justice issues. I'm applying these resolutions to my home life too: I plan on spending more time talking and playing with my children, raising them to be the kind of people this world needs more of.
Contrary to the stereotype of a "social justice warrior," I'm not very confrontational and I'm not used to speaking up about controversial things, so these are tough goals for me. The only question now is "how?" And that's a big question. Making these goals is all well and good, but what exactly can a mom of four young kids do to deal with such huge problems? A lot, it turns out.
First, I wrote a children's book (my first one!), Nursery Rhymes for Social Good, wherein I rewrote a bunch of traditional songs and poems as a way to support and explain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I had the idea before the election, based on the racism and sexism I was seeing in my children's fairytales, but the election pushed me to finish and release it sooner.
Then, I spoke up about a racially insensitive section in my daughter's fourth-grade social studies textbook. This lead to some great discussion with my daughter and her classmates, and by the end, the whole school district stopped using the book. Again, I'm not used to speaking up, but I was really happy with the conversations it started. On an international scale, I signed up to tutor an Afghan girl online through School of Leadership Afghanistan (because, girl power!). (If you're interested in being a tutor too, fill out an application here.)
In all my spare time (ha!), my sister and I run a nonprofit, HemoHelper, where we help get medical IDs and supplies to people with bleeding disorders in developing countries. (We've been doing this for several years—after a close friend had a blood disease—but the election inspired us to increase our efforts.) We also help spread awareness about disease through social media and a HemoStories podcast. In fact, I just returned from a donation trip to Mexico. Not only does it help me work on my post-election resolutions, but it was one of the most deeply satisfying things I've ever done, with or without a Trump presidency on the horizon.
But I don't want you to think that promoting social change can only be done through major things like writing a book or starting a charity. Little everyday choices can add up to big changes as well. Recycle more at home, or book your next vacation through a green travel agency.
In the end, it's about deciding to do something—anything!—and then actually doing it. Every little bit helps. I'm not saying that my old New Year's resolutions were bad. I still want to meditate, take care of my health, and spend more time with my kids. Those are all good things. But this election was a catalyst for me to kick it up a notch. I spent the last year taking better care of myself. Now it's time to start taking care of others. (And for what it's worth, research shows that helping people is good for your health—win-win!)
At its core, helping people isn't a partisan issue. Regardless of who you voted for or how you feel about the outcome of the election, a new year is a great time to look around your community and see what ways, big or small, you can reach out and help those in need.
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