Written by guest blogger Uli Nagel
Making Change Happen
My friend Cheryl just ‘got’ a law. She told me the other day while we were out on a walk in brilliant winter sunshine, discussing what might be the right way or ways within our scope to respond to a Trump presidency.
When I asked her how this came about, she told me that always being on the look out for making the world a better place, she had learned that her state senator, Ben Downing of Massachusetts, wanted to address poverty as one of his priorities. And a little while ago, her son had made her aware of a program in Europe, which incentivizes people with low and very low incomes to save the few dollars they might have left at the end of the week instead of spending them on lottery tickets – a path too many take in the hope for a better life.
Cheryl wrote to her senator and he came up with the text of the law, which allows banks to create special savings accounts for these types of clients and run a monthly lottery among them.
It took two years and just last month the governor signed the draft into law.
This story really inspired me and I wanted to write about it because I had never heard or thought of such a possibility, even though of course it makes all the sense in the world: politicians are supposed to work for us and help us bring into law the things we care about.
Cheryl was empowered by this event and it seems that a lot more of us need this kind of encouragement right now. In the wake of the election, I hear two kinds of stories: one about people who are realizing that they need and want to get more involved and the other about those who are so depressed and discouraged, that all they want to do is stick to things close at home: grand-kids, the garden, making art.
I thought of this second group when I heard about ‘Cheryl’s’ law. It’s important to know, see and feel that we can actually make a difference. To do so, we might have to take a first step into unfamiliar territory, and then keep pushing and pushing and pushing – something that might not come easily.
I have to keep reminding myself of the many set-backs and half-victories women, blacks, gays and others had to live through to finally achieve the just laws they were fighting for. Some climate scientists and activists have been calling for change for 30 years or more. These days, we are so used to everything being instant – from coffee to online shopping to access to entertainment – the world seems to be at our fingertips and our attention span is fickle.
Getting involved in climate change has taught me just how complicated change is and how slow. It is humbling – it was easy to say that nothing is happening and things should work differently. It is hard to make that happen.
And of course there is no way of knowing what can be achieved without going for it. In many ways, changing the law is one of the most direct and far-reaching approaches one can take. It does take a long view and stamina. So for someone like me, who needs more immediate gratification, pursuing several approaches at once really helps. Those at the personal level or those at the community level that build beautiful relationships and sustaining connections help to keep up my inspiration and stamina.Cheryl, in the meantime, is onto her next attempt – a law that makes it more appealing to invest in home energy efficiency improvements. ‘Her’ law is such an encouraging reminder to make every possible use of the democracy we (still) have.