I’m back after a wonderful weekend away at the Call to Action (CTA) annual conference. Call to Action is an organization for progressive-minded Catholics. While at the conference, I had the honor of being able to attend sessions led by people who are at the forefront of progressive, theological, and political thought, including Bishop John Shelby Spong, Workers’ Rights Activist Dolores Huerta, Father John Dear, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
During Dolores Huerta’s presentation, I was overcome with both the desire to do more to help the disadvantaged, and the despair that I couldn’t imagine anything I’d do being enough. I thought, “I should attend protests,” “I should volunteer,” “I should do more activism.” But I know myself well enough to know that all those things are very draining to me, and that I’m a prime candidate for activist burnout. And how much good does a burned-out activist do anyone? But the moment after wondering, what can I do? , I laughed internally as I realized I have a very powerful gift: a good command of the English language.
If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re developing your writing gifts as well (or else you just really like me). And if you’re human, I hope there’s something that you care about: whether it’s the environment, women’s rights, education or immigration reform, or one of the other many worthy causes in the world. I want to invite you to “marry” your passions: to write for change as much as you possibly can. Write your senators and representatives; keep a blog; write letters to the editor and op-eds. Write a memoir, nonfiction book, or novel that shares your expertise and pleads your cause. The only requirement is that you put what you’ve written out in the world. It may change your consciousness sitting on your bedside table, but it’s not going to go very far in changing the world.
If you think your words sent off to an editor or website won’t do any good, consider Betty Friedan, whose Feminine Mystique gave voice to thousands of suffering women and was instrumental in the women’s movement; consider Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which helped hundreds of people realize that slaves were human beings; consider the letter-writing campaign, launched by Dads & Daughters in 2006, that was instrumental in Hasbro’s decision not to release their risque line of Pussycat Dolls. Consider a book or letter you’ve read that has changed the way you look at the world and the people in it.
So the next time you feel ready to throw up your hands in despair or frustration, put those hands to better use by picking up a pen or sitting down at the keyboard. Imagine what you wish someone would tell the people in charge — and then, be the one who tells them.