Getting to the Heart of Civic Engagement – The Value of Day-to-Day Interactions
Guest Post – Jason Lacsamana, Director, Programs and Partnerships
Have you considered getting involved and becoming more civically engaged? If so, when you think about what that means, do you think school boards, local government commissions, and elected positions at the city, county, and state levels? While involvement in shifting large-scale policy to a more equitable state is essential, experience shows that our day-to-day interactions can have the most meaning.
What do I mean by that? Activities like volunteering at your kid’s school, committing to serve on the PTA, acting on a local board, and simply volunteering (such as coaching a youth sports team) can all shape and affect lives. As we look at our local community, my wife and I consciously decided to be active in our kids’ schools, sports, and activities. Not just for them but for those who may not have representation in these circles. Being a recognizable volunteer allows us to make decisions about dates, graphics, how things are worded, etc., that make a difference.
Over the last few years, I committed to coach in our local youth soccer and baseball leagues, which morphed into a board-level position. I even referee games other than my kids’. Being seen and interacting with children and families of similar backgrounds is important – allowing them to see people that they can identify with in active community positions. It allows them to be seen and represented. At the same time, working across the community with others of different cultural, ethnic, or economic backgrounds provides the important touchpoints that strengthen the bonds of our common humanity. Additionally, not all parents from our backgrounds have the opportunities and available time that my wife and I can make, so we understand the extra importance of giving when we can.
Day-to-day interactions don’t have to be huge to be impactful. Volunteering at the library, beach cleanups, donating blood at a community drive – these community activities are where real connection is made. Right now, we need connection and personal interactions as a reminder of our humanity.
And if your goals are bigger, volunteering at a school, church, temple, mosque, or library could be an entry point. You’ll find that the decisions you make at this hyper-local level will considerably impact a child, a group of families, or an entire neighborhood. Over time, that cumulative effect may be even greater than legislation passed at policy level. Then, those may feed into your macro engagements and aspirations – especially for immigrant and historically marginalized communities- providing crucial community-centered experiences to benefit everyone positively.
Are you interested in getting more involved but not sure where to start? Or perhaps you have some suggestions or guidance from your experience. Please continue the conversation in the comments to share some questions and ideas about civic engagement.