Post Election Thoughts
What can I do to help make the world be a better place?
I’ll have to admit I was as shocked as anyone at the outcome of this election. I’m an aging liberal who voted straight socialist in my first election. At the time I was teaching in Jersey City at Public School #22, and the year was 1968. I was fed up with politics as usual, party machines and I wanted change! And now that I think about it, if I’d come of age this year, maybe I would have turned to Trump after Bernie got beaten – but I rather doubt it.
In 1968, I moved to Jersey City right out of college and taught fourth grade in a big inner city school. I figured that teaching kids to read and to like learning would have some real impact, change that neither voting nor marching was likely to make.
A few years later I joined the Peace Corps and went to work in the Grasslands of Cameroon, in West Africa. There, I helped village women market their beautiful baskets to America through a Handicraft Cooperative. It was a successful effort to create economic change, and I think I made more lasting change there than at any other time in my life – working at the local level.
Basket from Cameroon
In fact, while I may not have been able to articulate it in 1968, I know now that this is the only option to create change available to most of us. After all, it could be argued that my single vote in this election didn’t make much difference. I could have stayed home and the results would have been exactly the same. So if it’s true that real, lasting change only happens at the local level, and one person, one day at a time, I’m trying to decide how best to get past this election and get busy helping where I can.
In my town of Cornish, New Hampshire, we have an informal organization called Neighbor to Neighbor. Although I was active in it for a few years, I haven’t participated much recently. The group meets for breakfast once a month to discuss how to assist seniors and disabled people who need practical help. So I’d like to start helping again. It might not change the world, but it’s something I can do to help my neighbors and feel better myself.
Stacking wood? Clearing snow off a roof? Offering a ride to a doctor’s office?
I can do that.
This commentary first appeared on Vermont Public Radio. To listen to Henry reading this piece, click here.
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