From the Left



We Must Show Up and Do Better for Our Communities

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp on

A big part of my job is community engagement. The opinion section of any newspaper cannot happen without the people of the community. In order to lift up the voices of our neighbors, I must reach out and be willing to talk to people, not just sit at the computer and wait for my inbox to fill up. Email is still a digital space, and it lacks the interaction with others that is a balm for the soul. Email is sterile. It puts others at arm's length, making it easier to discharge negative emotions without considering the recipient's humanity. Especially when you feel that the person on the other end represents an opposing view.

I attended three events this week. And spoke to at least a dozen people over the phone. The connections made in person really do trump all. To disconnect from technology and reconnect with humanity is something we all must do if we're going to have any chance at making important changes in our society and for our children.

Each of these events I attended were free. I did not get an invitation from some elite individual; they were accessible to anyone. These were grassroots community forums to talk about the good work being done in my neighborhood and to address the needs of our city's most vulnerable. One was a talk given by a local civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., one was about the gun violence that plagued our city and the other was about services for troubled and homeless teens.

The message that threaded through all three of these events was love. We must be brave enough to bear witness to the struggle and offer compassion to those who are living their darkest days. We do this by closing our laptops, turning off our phones and showing up to learn what our community needs while determining how we can be part of the solution. It really does start with simply being there.

Memes and judgments on social media launched like bombs from a distance may fuel your self-righteousness, but they do nothing to move our communities forward. Your peace, love and compassion are this world's lifeblood. Being willing to have difficult conversations makes this world better. We do not need judgment. We need fellowship.


Getting out of your house and into your community and interacting with new people makes it really difficult to stay entrenched in your own bias. People think differently than you and that's OK. Engaging with a diverse population and learning the struggles of your community is not about surrendering your convictions to some other side. It's about leaning into your values and expanding your mind to better understand personal experiences that differ from your own. I don't have to take on someone else's identity to have compassion for their struggle.

We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to what's happening around us. Gun violence has found its way to all of our doorsteps -- regardless of where we live, work and seek entertainment. It affects every age, race and socioeconomic status. Suicide and depression is the same. And so is the rift in our education system. There is no reason you cannot show up at the next school board meeting, city council meeting or nonprofit event, even if you must do so via Zoom. The time is now to learn what your community and country needs. The next generations are our children and grandchildren. They need us. We must show them the way.


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