Non-Profit Uses Volunteer Work To Bring Republicans And Democrats Together
On voting day, I did random acts of kindness at the voting polls. I figured the world needed a little reminder of peace and love. Now, a non-profit called Activate Good is taking it a step further–they are coming to bring Republicans and Democrats under the same roof, to volunteer together and help make the world a better place.
The theory? As divided as we are, we can all still do good. We can all still work together to make the world a better place.
How Republicans and Democrats See Each Other
No one will argue that our nation is divided. During the election many of us stopped being friends, neighbors, co-workers; instead, we became Trump or Clinton. Debates about border walls ravaged our Facebook walls. We lost friends; many of us even tore our families apart. In the streets there were even people on both sides of the debate unleashing violent, hateful attacks–some shouting racist words supported by the punctuation, “Trump!” Others, pulling Republicans from their cars and beating them.
I can understand why there is so much tension on both sides. When Democrats see Trump’s election as a portent of racist and hateful laws yet to come, it can be easy to feel vindicated in attacking someone who supported Trump. “You voted my freedom away,” they reason, “So I have a right to defend my freedom by hurting you.”
Likewise, Republicans see the rallies that turn violent and see their worst fears come to life. “You see? The Democrats really are out to tear apart our country.”
But hear me out. Neither of these realities are the truth.
Random Acts of Kindness at the Voting Polls
On voting day I went out with a small group of people to give away candy, snacks, drinks, and flowers at my local voting station. It was a predominately Liberal neighborhood.
The college students walked by, took a flower, and smiled at me — they could tell just from my hippie outfit that I was voting on “their team.”
I saw a brave woman in a wheelchair wearing a Trump hat and offering Republican voter guides to the crowds, who mostly ignored her. Like many Liberals, I’m also afraid of Trump and I don’t like what he stands for. But I admired this woman. She was courageous to campaign in a crowd of people who probably hate her, just to stand up for what she believes in.
- I approached this Trump supporter, my natural enemy, with my bucket of candy. I asked, “Would you like some chocolate?”
- She looked astonished. “I’m not voting for Hillary,” she said. “Is that okay?”
- “Of course! It’s a random act of kindness. Non-partisan chocolate!”
- Her eyes lit up happily. “I’d love a Snickers.”
I kept her supplied in Snickers for the rest of our shift. As I spoke to her, she told me about how she prayed Trump would win. Tears were in her eyes, because at the time it seemed so unlikely her candidate would win. She told me, “I’m so afraid of Hillary.”
There’s that word again: Afraid.
We’re all afraid of each other.
Resistance Without Hatred
While many people blocked Facebook friends when debates got heated, I made a point to never block someone. Even if they spewed hate, I tried to understand where that hate was coming from. Some of my Liberal friends accused me of being a “soft core Liberal” because I still get along with Republicans. I don’t know what the real right answer is, or the best way to fix our social problems. All I can do is try.
I believe we can #RESIST without shutting people out.
My Grandmother supported Trump. I argued with her. I told her how she was wrong. I do believe her vote has caused many people pain. And I recognized my own privilege, that I will experience less pain that many other Americans will as a result of Trump’s presidency. But I still love my Grandma.
In fact, I believe–and maybe I’m as idealistic and foolish as they come–that when we shut each other out, we close down communication that could help us understand each other instead of fear each other. Maybe we could come up with workable solutions together.
Because I do know this. The people I know who voted a different way than I did are still good people. They truly want to make the world a better place, too. We just don’t agree on how. And we will never agree on how unless we can talk to each other.
And here’s one thing I feel like both parties can agree on: Kindness is good.
Republicans and Democrats Come Together to Volunteer at a Food Bank
On April 26th, people across all party lines will come together to volunteer at a Raleigh Food Bank, organized by the non-partisan non-profit Activate Good. According to Activate Good, “volunteers will engage and interact with people with diverse political affiliations. Volunteers will have opportunities to get to know folks with varying affiliations and be encouraged to connect with each other as we work together to help those in need. We will do our very best to have equal volunteer representation across political affiliations.”
“We ask that volunteers come with open minds and hearts. The purpose is not to launch a political debate, but to help out a worthy cause in unison.”
Even if we don’t agree on how to solve the issue of homelessness and poverty–Is welfare helpful or harming? Should we drug test recipients? Should we just give money to those in need or instead provide services to prepare them for being self-sufficient?–we can all agree that as a nation we should do something to help people struggling with those issues. So Activate Good is bringing together people from across the political spectrum to remind us that we’re all human, and we all really care about social issues. Maybe it’ll even show us what we can accomplish if we work together and try to understand each other.
Volunteers will be identified by their party and encouraged to find a person will different political beliefs and discover three things they have in common. Groups will volunteer together at the food pantry, but hopefully discuss things other than politics. “The goal,” says Amber Smith, Executive Director for Activate Good, “is just to help humanize each other.”
At the very least, hopefully working together doing good, earthy labor will help us not fear “The Other.”
Activate Good is still looking for more volunteers to join up! Don’t stress – it’s not about politics. In the end, it’s always just about helping people and making the world a better place.