Feb18 Impact Change Twenty20 1

Photo courtesy of Maggie Bryan/Twenty20

In the wake of February 14th’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, we rounded up some ways to make an immediate impact and to have your voice be heard. It’s totally fine not to know where to start—we didn’t—but here are four cues you can take in hope they can be helpful to you, too.

1. Get connected

First and foremost, you have the ability to speak up. Tell your representative what you’d like to see happen with changing legislation. Remind those in power the importance of issues close to you and that they are in office to represent you and your values.

Luckily there are many ways to get in touch. ContactingCongress.org is a great resource for finding out who exactly represents you, what they’ve been up to in session, and the best ways to reach them. If you know who your rep is, you can also speak with them directly by calling the Capital switchboard at 202-224-3121.

If navigating a phone tree isn’t your thing, there are also apps that send a message on your behalf, such as Stance which records your voice message and delivers it to to your rep’s phone at night when their lines aren’t as busy. Text messaging bots, such as Everytown for Gun Control and Resistbot, are also available to deliver your message to your congressperson’s email about which issues you’d like your voice to be heard.

2. March forward

What we’re seeing after the 17 students were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a little different: the surviving students are nearly of age to register to vote and they understand the power of social media to speak out and help influence change themselves on their own behalf. We’re grateful and inspired by these student activists, and we owe it to their bravery to instigate more public conversations around impacting change. However, as voting adults it’s our duty to step in and protect these students and their futures. It’s up to us to act on their behalf.

One way to do so is to join the Parkland, Florida student-created March for Our Lives. On March 24, 2018, surviving students and their families will be walking the streets of Washington, D.C. to demand that their lives and safety in schools be made a priority in government policy. If you’re unable to march with them in D.C., there are sister marches happening across the country. You can find out which cities are also participating in the student-led protest here. You can help be a part of impacting change by joining their march. Your voice, your steps, your support and presence counts.

3. Find strength in community

Violent tragedies and attacks that occur in public locations like schools, movie theaters, concert venues, or elsewhere can elicit feelings of fear and makes us feel unsafe in everyday environments. Taking control of your safety by paying attention to your surroundings (“if you see something, say something”), talking with others, and speaking up if you feel someone around you needs help are some actions you can take to feel more in control of your environment and bring the community together in strength, especially after a traumatic event.

Remember, everyone experiences trauma differently. Simply reaching out to a loved one after a mass crisis helps spread a message of support and kindness. Calling someone you love and extending your patience and understanding can help remind both of you that you’re in this together to help everyone readjust. If you find yourself overwhelmed in the thrust of social media comment threads, feel free to take a break to regroup for your own mental and emotional health as well.

If you have kids, providing a support network for them is of the utmost importance. Before reminding them that you’re there to keep them safe, process your own feelings and concerns. You’ll be able to communicate calmly and effectively, while being prepared for any questions they may have. Above all, listen to them and the fears they may be having so you can respond supportively.

4. Empower tolerance

While it can often seem like the hardest thing to do amid a tragedy, promoting tolerance can help impact positive change in the long run. Elementary school-aged children are known to be able to recognize differences in people, however it takes many years for them to be able to develop and internalize the feelings and values about what they’ve recognized. There’s no standard methodology, but simply listening and empathizing with our children helps teach them to do the same for others. We can show our kids to be inclusive by introducing them to new people we meet or run into while passing by. We can also help our kids recognize other kids who might need a friend by encouraging them to invite someone new over for a playdate, for instance. Consistent open and honest conversations with our kids helps us teach them how to process their emotions and understand when and how kindness can count.