By Roberta Dunn
We’ve all likely heard the saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They are lofty words often associated with agents of change such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicated their lives to being the change they wanted to see in the world. Stretched thin already, we might be inclined to think we have nothing to offer- that we have no game, no tiger in the tank, maybe no vision for how we can contribute to change.
Let’s agree that “being the change we want to see in the world” is going to be unique and personal for each of us…and that being that change, like the proverb, “can be a journey that begins with a single step.” I shared a cup of coffee with a gentleman I cross paths with regularly as I walk to work. That’s it. No bells, no whistles. A single step.
Here are a few stories of Oregonians who are creating change in their communities and in turn, building more inclusive, welcoming spaces for all.
Joey Razzano recognized that the swings in her neighborhood were not accessible to her daughter and other children experiencing disability and so began her efforts to create positive change. She was able to advocate and work to make accessible swings available in her local park and school. We often assume that impactful change must result in a life-altering shift, but that’s not the case.
“[Creating change] doesn’t have to be such a big commitment. It could be as small as attending a PTA meeting. I went to a school boundary meeting for my son’s high school, but ended up asking a question about special education curriculum at this community meeting. A representative from the State PTA told me afterward that he had been to eight high school meetings in Portland, and I was the first one to bring up special education. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions!” – Joey Razzano
Becky Berger saw that there was an abyss experienced by families as they launched their children into adulthood that often resulted in an isolated, disengaged young person, and a parent not sure where to turn. That fueled the birth of Griffin’s Place, a nonprofit supporting young adults to engage in their community with this powerful “we believe statement.”
Strong communities encourage everyone to contribute their unique talents and abilities towards a shared experience. Strong communities support the right and promote the abilities of everyone to successfully participate in activities, events and environments. Strong communities provide opportunity to join together in service to one another.
Randy Anderson loves his coastal community of Seaside and wanted to see that the beauty of the beach was accessible to everyone. So began his mission to identify the right partners to make accessible beach wheelchairs available.
“I’ve been advocating for her [his daughter] my whole life and I’m a strong advocate for all people who experience disabilities. I went to the Seaside City Council and proposed the idea to them. They were all on board, gave me their blessing, and then we had a local business donate a couple of used chairs to the program.”
Randy said all of this happened in about a week’s span. Read the full article for more details.
These three examples of change have a few things in common. Each was anchored within their community. Each was driven by personal interest, passion, or connection. Lastly, while they were lofty goals, they were tangible. As we prepare for 2019 I encourage you to identify how you can be the change you want to see in the world and take action. One easy way for you to champion the change you want to see is to make an end-of-year gift to FACT Oregon. Give the gift of hope, high expectations, and community to families from Clatskanie to Burns, from Portland to Ashland.