Whether it consists of wearing a button or a bracelet, handing out fliers, or the ever present obligation to table outside the Caf for one of your organizations, raising awareness is something that Gusties know how to do very well. It is pretty easy to raise awareness because it basically consists of talking about things that we are passionate about, and because this is Gustavus and we support our fellow Gusties, we support those causes by wearing those buttons and reading those fliers. But therein lies the problem; being aware of issues and problems is simply not enough.
Raising awareness is the first step toward taking action, toward generating change, and for making a difference, but unless we take those next steps, we are never going to get anywhere. Building Bridges is one of my favorite organizations on campus because they work to provide tools, knowledge, and opportunities to Gusties so that they can take steps that make a difference in global and national social justice issues. They build the bridge; you have to walk over it.
Change does not happen because people are aware that there is a problem. Change happens because people care that there is a problem, and they are going to do something about it. Solutions to problems are not pre-packaged ‘how-to’ guides that can be handed out. Real solutions require critical thought, communication, determination, and action. Solutions require more than just listening to problems.
Now I am not suggesting that you take on every single cause that you have ever supported with your buttons or your bracelets, but instead of showing a little bit of support for a lot of causes, involve yourself in making a big difference in one or two issues. Where is your voice needed? How can you create change? There are a lot of answers to these questions, and that is alright. Answering them is kind of what life is about. By investing your time, energy, and thoughts into an issue, you would be surprised at the effect that you can have.
We have an incredible amount of power; the question is whether or not we are going to do anything with it. I Am We Are, another great organization on campus, has repeatedly quoted Helen Keller who said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Each person makes a difference in the world, it is simply a question of what difference you want to make.
As powerful as your voice can be to a movement or an issue, your silence can be even more powerful. Silence is consent. If we passively sit by and watch injustices occur, then what defines our community will change. If we ignore concerns about threats to the environment and continue on as we have been, then the world will change. If we do not stand up against mass incarceration, then this country will change. Change is happening, what are you going to do about it?