How can one person make a difference?
Last year I was lucky enough to take part in Comcast Cares Day: an annual day of volunteering and activism throughout the country when Comcast, its employees, and its partners give back to the community. In New York, the focus was on working at PS 149 Sojourner Truth in Manhattan, an elementary school, where a variety of projects focused on improving the grounds and facilities. Volunteers built benches and picnic tables for the yard, planted gardens, and created posters for the hallways and classrooms. I got to spend the morning painting a gigantic mural across a wall in the playground with friends and other Comcast volunteers and representatives from vital organizations like City Year, Red Nose Day, and Global Citizen. Everyone came together and pitched in to radically recreate the space, and the final project - spanning three walls and over one hundred feet - was an incredible sight.
I was also able to stop by the Global Citizen Action Hub set up on site. This digital lounge gave all the volunteers in New York a chance to connect with the larger Global Citizen and Comcast communities, to share the projects we were working on and see how everything was coming together as volunteers took action across the US. It was encouraging to see how everyone taking action on a local level could create so much change. Participants were also able to sign in to Global Citizen’s online platform and take action digitally; signing petitions and sending tweets to world leaders, encouraging them to make meaningful commitments in their communities like we were that day. As always, these actions also earned participants points that could be used to enter to win tickets to the Global Citizen Festival last September. There was even a photo booth! (cue embarrassing photo booth selfie in action)
It was a really special way to spend a morning and and an important reminder about why volunteering and being active in our communities should be a priority. It's a way to bring folks together to make an impact on a local level and and it allows us to meet and interact with fellow community members we might not meet otherwise AND it can be fun (again, see embarrassing selfie)!
I consider myself a Global Citizen. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to me it’s always meant, at the most basic level, someone who cares about the world beyond their individual borders. Someone that believes that regardless of another person's gender, color, age, shape, religion, orientation, ability, or country of origin, we are intertwined because we are citizens of the same world - that we succeed and fail together - and therefore we have a responsibility to use our voices, take action, and make the world a better place for all of us. And look, I get it - this is a mind-bogglingly huge scale to think on. How do you even begin to wrap your head, let alone your heart, around the whole world? Sometimes, it is hard to even know where to start amidst an endless and disheartening news cycle and what feels like a sea of online petitions and think pieces. We know it's vitally important to stay educated and active and engaged, but how do we navigate? How can one person make a difference?
Start at home. Start by asking for ways to help in your community. Start by asking your friends and family to join you. Start by not just using your voice, but also by going out and actively seeking people and places in your community that are struggling and work to improve things for them. Begin to reach out and then further out and then further and further out. That’s where the journey to being a Global Citizen begins.
Check out the video below to see me talk with MSNBC’s Willie Geist, and learn more about Comcast Cares Day 2016.