This morning, I joined a small-but-mighty group of local volunteers to pick up trash around the downtown area in our community. It was a little thing, but it got me thinking about the power of small, local actions.
Because I only had an hour to spare, I almost didn’t go. I felt bad that I was going to have to bail out early. Also, when I looked at the Facebook invite, I saw that more than a dozen folks had checked off that they were Going and a ton more had checked Interested, so I figured they’d have plenty of help.
In the end, I decided to go down and join the group, and I was glad I did because there wound up being only nine volunteers at the start (including myself and my beau)—a smaller group than anticipated. We all donned our rubber gloves, pulled open our trash bags, and headed out to our designated areas. We weren’t trying to clean up the entire town. We knew we only had a few people and only a couple hours, but we didn’t let that discourage us from doing SOMEthing.
Between the two of us, my beau and I did our best to clear the trash (and an enormous number of cigarette butts) from a municipal parking lot. As we worked, we talked about how awful it was that people felt entitled to leave their trash around. We wondered how people grew up to feel that it was okay to make a mess and leave it for someone else to clean up. We shared frustration that even some of the local businesses and various apartment buildings didn’t seem to make any efforts to at least maintain their own properties or the public spaces immediately adjacent to their properties. It got us thinking more about the meaning of the word “community” and how it stands for more than just the space within a set of geographical boundaries.
The other interesting thing I realized while out there picking cigarette butts and nip bottles out of the weeds was that it’s only by getting out “in the trenches,” as the saying goes, that you can really start to understand the problem and get some clarity on solutions. For instance, my beau and I found there was one particular area in the parking lot that had the highest concentration of cigarette butts. This was clearly a problem area, but we wouldn’t have been able to identify it if we hadn’t been out there working to clean it up. While we would like to think that we could encourage local citizens to have better manners and dispose of their butts and trash responsibly on their own, we know better than to expect miracles. However, we started thinking about whether we might petition the town or even some local business owners to install some receptacles for cigarette butts in this one area. We were able to see the need and the solution very easily. Next step: taking some additional action to see if we can’t get that solution implemented.
I guess my point is this: each small action matters. There are so many crises and battles to deal with these days, that it’s easy to feel totally overwhelmed. And once you start feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to succumb to a kind of paralysis that keeps you from doing anything because everything feels futile. It’s so important to remember that any action—no matter how small—is a positive step. Will the parking lot where my beau and I worked this morning be full of new trash in a week or two weeks? Probably. Do I feel like the hour I spent this morning was a waste of time? Definitely not. We all have to start somewhere, and as our small actions build, we gather momentum. And the more we’re taking action, the more we’re out there in the world getting first-hand experience with the problems that need solving, and the better equipped we are to help find the solutions.
And on that optimistic note, here’s this week’s collection of Good News headlines.
In local good news:
- Earlier this month, a small group of intrepid folks signed petitions and stood with signs at Topsfield Fair in an effort to convince Fair organizers to stop allowing elephant rides at the fair. One of the organizers recently messaged me to say, “The MA bill banning elephants in circuses was reported out of committee this week – this is more progress than we have had in 10 years on our state bill. Huge reason to celebrate! The bill is now in the House Committee on Ways and Means.” We now need to get the bill, H.418, to the floor for a vote. If you’re interested in supporting this, please reach out to your state reps and senators to ask for their support in moving this bill through the process into law? (New York Gov. Cuomo signed the NY bill banning elephants in circuses and traveling shows in New York state. It’s about time we did the same here in MA.)
- Because language matters: Selectmen or Select Board? Winchester asked to de-gender leadership
- From Senator Joan B. Lovely, “Today the Senate voted to override several of Governor Baker’s vetoes to restore funding to support domestic violence prevention programs and youth-at-risk summer jobs. The Senate also voted to restore funding to the Home Works program, which provides opportunities for children living in the emergency housing assistance program to attend out-of-school time and summer programming run by youth-serving organizations!”
- State Senators Unveil Far-Reaching Mass. Health Care Legislation
- This week in the war on workers: A win for dining hall workers at Northeastern University
- In Victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Court Finds That Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law
- Resolute Forest Products lawsuit against Greenpeace dismissed in court
- Vistra Energy Corp announced it would shut two coal-fired plants in Texas.*
- Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut’s Attorney General’s pledged to sue the EPA over its move to eliminate rules limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.*
There’s also some good news on the elections front.
- The NAACP Georgia State Conference recently claimed a victory for voters in the State of Georgia.
- Foxborough Democrat Paul Feeney wins Bristol-Norfolk state senate seat
- Wellstone’s Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back—Minnesota’s once-woebegone progressives have quietly crafted a road map for turning state capitols blue.
- Democrat Nicole Stewart, won a seat on The Raleigh City Council, North Carolina, after the independent challenger declined to seek a run-off when Stewart secured more votes than him, saying he didn’t want to divide the city. Democrat Matt Newton won a seat on Charlotte City Council. Democrat Gary Stanga was re-elected Clerk of Court for Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana. Democrats Joe Giarrusso, Jared Brossett, and Helena Moreno won seats on the New Orleans City Council. While New Orleans, Louisiana, has not yet elected its new mayor, the top two candidates to win in the first round of voting are women, so no matter the outcome, one of them will be the first female Mayor of the city in its nearly 300 year old history.*
- WANT TO TAKE SOME ELECTION ACTION? From What Went Right: “Election Day is fast approaching in many states, including Virginia, with important statewide races for control of the State Legislature. If you haven’t already done so, check out Sister District, Flippable, or Swing Left to see how you can help progressive candidates win even if you live in a solid blue one.”
And here’s what’s happening on the social, civil, and economic equality and justice front:
- White nationalist speaker Richard Spencer drew protests at Thursday’s Florida event, and his attempts to speak were mostly drowned out.
- I have mixed feelings on this one, because I’m not a fan of either Hugh Hefner or Playboy magazine, but it seems like a good thing that Ines Rau makes history as first transgender Playmate. Interesting context in the article about the first time the magazine featured its first black Playmate back in 1965.
- #MeToo: Harvey Weinstein case moves thousands to tell their own stories of abuse, break silence
- And, across the Atlantic, French women flood Twitter to name and shame sexual harassers
- I’ve never seen the movie Clerks, but Dogma is one of my favorites. Both were directed by Kevin Smith and both were developed in large part because of the involvement of one Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood heavy hitter who was recently exposed as a serial sexual predator. In atonement for having had any connection with Weinstein, Kevin Smith Is Giving All His Residuals From Harvey Weinstein Movies To Women’s Charity. I think that’s pretty cool of him.
- The battle over peaceful protests during NFL games continues. It’s not a solid win, but according to the New York Times, “The N.F.L. for now will continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military.”
- This is kind of brilliant, and also sad and infuriating: This Woman Is Taking Selfies With Her Catcallers To Show Men That “It Happens Everywhere”. This isn’t a solution, but it’s a powerful way to raise awareness.
- Federal judge blocks Trump’s third travel ban
- Supreme Court backs push to remove Ten Commandments monument
- Almost 200 protesters, in an action organized by local clergy were arrested in St Louis for shutting down I-95 to demand justice for Anthony Lamar Smith.*
We’re also hearing some promising news on the Russia investigation front:
- Al Franken Tears Into Jeff Sessions Over Shifting Narratives on Russia Meetings—“By the end, we’re going to a 75-yard field goal.”
- Something good may come out of all this: Senators Demand Online Ad Disclosures as Tech Lobby Mobilizes
- Spicer interviewed by Mueller’s team—The former press secretary met with prosecutors in the Russia probe on Monday.
- Jared Kushner Adds Charles Harder to Legal Team as West Wing Pressure Mounts
And in miscellaneous, fun, and slightly snarky good news:
- From the Washington Post: The Daily 202: Obama and Bush deliver calls to action against Trumpism. See, people can work across the aisle!
- Also: McCain Condemns ‘Half-Baked, Spurious Nationalism’ in Speech
- So, I guess “Fake News” is a “Real Thing” – Retired ‘Navy SEAL’ praising Trump on Fox News was a fake. By the way, I’m not glad this guy fabricated his entire military history; I’m glad he was exposed for the fraud he is.
- Like You, This Giant Clock Is Counting Down The Remaining Hours Of Trump’s Term—The mysterious artwork was installed in Queens by a group of anonymous artists this summer
- Here’s an interesting twist – seems the president can’t just expunge your criminal record by pardoning you. That’s good to know. Federal judge refuses to erase Joe Arpaio’s conviction despite Trump pardon.
- You don’t have to be of any particular religious or spiritual persuasion to be moved by this video of Samoan firefighters singing a moving hymn in the midst of California wildfires. Lift your voices, friends!
- And because dogs rock (sorry, Snark Kitty) – This Man Started A Facebook Group That Built A Community For UPS Drivers To Share Dogs They Meet On Routes
- Good Move: Trump says drug czar nominee Tom Marino is withdrawing after Washington Post/‘60 Minutes’ investigation
* Hat tip to What Went Right (WWR)
“Mass State House Dome”: Photo Credit: twiga_swala Flickr via Compfight cc“Planet Earth”: From Morguefile
“Planet Earth”: From Morguefile
“I Voted”: standing8 Flickr via Compfight cc
“Blind Justice”: Government of Prince Edward Island Flickr via Compfight cc
“Russia Sickle”: AK Rockefeller Flickr via Compfight cc
“Snark Kitty”: Gratisography