As soon as a tragedy hits and is smattered across the news and social media, I can hear it. Like a swarm of locusts, I can almost make out the individual tap tap tapping of keyboards and smartphones as people near and far offer their “thoughts and prayers.” I can almost see them too: sitting back in their chairs and feeling a small sense of accomplishment, smiling a little at their kindheartedness. They have proven they fall into the “good human” category. They have done something.
Except they haven’t.
I am all for sending positive vibes out into the universe, especially when negativity is so rampant. I believe that being kind and positive can make an actual difference. Spreading kindness makes people feel good. It has a contagious effect and spreads from person to person, brightening each link in the chain and creating a happier community.
But do you know what else is important? Action. And your thoughts and prayers? They don’t do much in terms of action.
Here are some things you can do right now that will make a real difference:
If you have extra money and can make a monetary donation, there are a lot of ways to help people who have recently faced a tragedy. If you want to help victims of the Las Vegas shootings, Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the healthcare costs of people that were injured. If money is tight but you’d like to do something and you live in Nevada, they’re in desperate need of blood donations. Don’t live in Nevada? Donating blood locally won’t help Las Vegas victims specifically, but it can save the life of someone in your area.
Looking to help people in Puerto Rico? You can donate money to groups like United for Puerto Rico and Hispanic Federation’s “Unidos” page. If you’d like to donate supplies, United for Puerto Rico (which is headed by Puerto Rico’s First Lady) has a list of supplies they need on their website.
Call your local representative
If you think gun control is way too lax in this country, call a senator. If you think we need to do more about mental health care in this country, call a senator. If you think the Jones Act (which keeps foreign ships from transporting goods from one US port to another) is ridiculous, call a senator. No matter what your opinion is, call your local representative and make sure your voice is heard.
I’ve read a lot of “now is not the time to politicize” comments around the Internet, but I disagree. Now is exactly the time to make your voice heard. Waiting until the horror of a massacre is no longer fresh in your mind will only make it seem less important and lull you further into inaction. If you have any thoughts on how we can stop situations like this from playing out again and again, make them heard.
Need help figuring out how to get in touch? Refinery29 has a great guide for calling your senator.
Get your kids involved
After seeing the gruesome footage from Las Vegas, it’s really easy to sit back, throw your hands in the air and say this world is going to hell. It’s easy to feel distraught and to feel like there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. It’s easy to fear for your kids and the world they’re inheriting. Shit, I’m doing all of those things right now.
But do you know what else I’m going to do? I‘m going to teach my kids that it’s important to be kind and caring and empathetic. I’m going to teach them to help others who are in need however we can. We won’t always have big sums of money to send off to charities. But we can crack open our piggy banks and give what we can. We can donate clothes and toys and books that we no longer need. We can set up a lemonade stand or volunteer our time at a local charity to make a difference in whatever way we can. We can talk about how to make the world a better place and figure out ways we can contribute.
We can act.
I realize that sending thoughts and prayers can be comforting in times of terror. And if they make you feel better, that’s fantastic. But don’t for one second let that feeling trick you into thinking it’s enough.