by Mary Grace Coltharp
Anyone can think about the violence and injustice suffered by a fellow human being. It takes no courage to get frustrated and worked up over the problems humanity faces. However, to go beyond thinking and take action is not easy. You may be thinking, “So where do I begin? What am I supposed to do about that right now?” Maybe you have a handful of excuses that stem from feeling overwhelmed or unsure of yourself and that keep you from getting involved.
In middle and high school I was beginning to understand the world in a more realistic light and coming into my own as someone who cared about what happens to humanity. As a young person, then and now, with big goals for how I could change the world, I didn’t know where to begin or what I could do on a daily basis. What I wanted was an instruction manual. From my drive for creating positive change and that desire for direction came the idea for A Consistent Life.
Aimee Murphy and I created A Consistent Life: The young advocate’s guide to living peace and justice daily for anyone who wants to help rehumanize the marginalized. The guide is a workbook set up with weekly themes focused on certain groups of dehumanized people that gives the reader daily action-items according to the theme. The topics covered in A Consistent Life are as varied as the themes present in Life Matters Journal. Each week focuses on a group to rehumanize: human beings experiencing homelessness, preborn human beings and their parents, and human beings who are or have been incarcerated, to name a few. On each week’s informational page, an activist learns more about a particular type of injustice and is prompted to do some of their own research.
Following the informational page are five days of tasks related to the group you are rehumanizing that week. These actions are generally smaller tasks for the first four days leading up to a big-ticket item on the 5th day, which can be accomplished over the weekend. The actions involve working with members of marginalized groups, respectfully dialoguing with those with whom you disagree, protesting or other democratic ways to change policy, and many more.
A few times the guide asks you to read a relevant article or pertinent book or watch a related movie.We recommend starting a book club to discuss what you can learn from nonfiction works or thought-provoking novels and films using the list of resources in the back of the book. Better yet, get a group or partner to go through the entire year with you!
Even if your year of living peace and justice daily is a solo project, you can always involve friends and family in volunteer efforts. People who care about you want to know what you care about, and a volunteer project is an easy way to start some important conversations. One aspect of the book is the tasks which involve using creativity for good, but throughout the year we challenge you to use whatever talents you might have. We also included some reminders to “rehumanize yourself”, as Aimee puts it. Whenever you are working against commonly accepted forms of violence or any injustice, it is vital to take care of your own mental and emotional health along the way.
We created A Consistent Life not only to help break down the steps someone can take to make a difference. We wrote it because we know how much the work needs to be done and we know how much power an individual has in the face of evil. Young people especially need to be empowered because we have such potential to set in motion necessary change. Whether you buy the book on Amazon for yourself or a teenager in your life, or simply decide to set goals for yourself, there are ways to make a difference, bit by bit.
We can change our attitudes from “this problem is too big for me to do anything about” to “each day I can do something small until it all adds up.” The culture isn’t going to change overnight, but each of us can chip away at its dehumanizing aspects until every human being is unconditionally respected. Together we can mold a culture which values every life, responds to evil with love, and counteracts injustice with kindness. Step one: start.