By: Meghana Shah
Ahimsa — the act of being respectful toward all living things and the avoidance of violence toward others, whether by thoughts, words, or deeds. It is a belief that is practiced in many religions. To name a few: Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. In each religion, it has a different name.
I was born into a Jain family, but I am not one who goes to temple and follows all the guidelines set forth to live a Jainist life. However, I am a firm believer and practitioner of ahimsa. A man who preached and practiced ahimsa, and as a result became the change he wished to see in the world, was Mahatma Gandhi. It’s his beliefs in ahimsa which led Dr. Martin Luther King to embrace nonviolence “while the Montgomery boycott was going on” and deemed it to be the “guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”
Being the change of any kind in this world, whether that is the external or internal world, requires persistence and patience, which may be against our nature. It may be social justice against oppression or embarking on a journey to protect lives of the vulnerable. Since I was a young girl in India, I’ve believed that all life is sacred and should be protected.
This year has been an intense year in which lives in many ways have been compromised. One thing in particular that hit home for me was seeing and reading about the staggering increase in domestic violence around the world.
We know the numbers, yet we feel paralyzed when trying to solve for it. We dedicate an entire month to make people aware of the issue of domestic abuse. If we are aware of it, why then isn’t it something we collectively have been able to solve? It’s much easier said than done.
There are many reasons for this. First, our nature, human nature, is to avoid things that make us uncomfortable or stir up emotions that we would much rather avoid. Dedicated events like awareness months help us to recall that there are big things we need to work on changing in this world, but we generally only acknowledge and move on. The other two steps, acceptance and action, are rarely taken.
I won’t go into all the stats here, but will say that approximately ten million men and women are affected by intimate partner violence annually in the United States alone — that’s nearly twenty people per minute. This number has increased by 25% due to COVID-19 lockdowns and is climbing as stay-at-home requests are extended. Globally, this number is staggering and in the multi-millions; one report found that nearly 1.8 billion people are affected by intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime.
I’ll wait for you to pick up your jaw.
Okay, ready to move forward?
Great! Let’s keep going.
Now that you know the numbers, let me ask you: What’s the first thought that went through your mind?
I will take a wild guess that it might be something like: “What?!” or “That’s crazy!” or “Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize it was this big of a problem!” or just a blank stare and head shaking in denial with a thought which may go something like: “I mean this is unreal, what can I realistically do about this? It’s too big a problem for me to solve? I am just one person!”
I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. — Mother Teresa
Acknowledge that the problem is big.
Accept that you are one person and can’t solve the whole problem.
But also accept that it only takes one person to effect change in society. Change starts with each of us, each individual. It is not in the big bold acts, but in the many small ones that help us change our world.
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So what are some of these small acts of change you can contribute? My list is not comprehensive, so please do add your own thoughts in the comments below.
I suggest you take action by searching on Google for safety shelters in your area. These are places which provide comfort, safety, and shelter to those who are attempting to get back on their feet after enduring abusive relationships.
These organizations rely on annual funding events, and with social distancing orders, their main source of funding has been diminished. It has been a very difficult year for many nonprofits to raise funds and get the supplies they need, but it doesn’t have to be. YOU can make a difference.
In my research, I have found these organizations need:
1) Basic supplies.
You’d be surprised to learn that basic necessities like coffee, toilet paper, and cleaners are tremendously helpful. Many of the organizations you will find have an Amazon Wishlist or a Google document on their site with supplies that are frequently needed. You can do contactless delivery through various sites.
2) Your time and knowledge.
Right now, shelters are being careful and not having as many volunteers, but there are other ways you might be able to help. So, reach out and ask if your skills could be of use in other ways to the organization.
I was speaking to an organization leader who learned from a local volunteer that her organization could sign up for Amazon Smile and Create a Wishlist on the site. By doing this, it allowed them to get the supplies and earn donations for each item purchased by people.
Independent of the wishlist, since their organization was the linked nonprofit for individuals in the area, any time a purchase was made using Amazon Smile they received donations. All it required was the time and knowledge to get started.
Many people have seen job loss this year, so this may not be the easiest to do, but if you can, I suggest you make a small gift when possible. Some organizations have online donation collection set up, while others may require you to snail mail it to them.
Take the time to do this, as it allows shelters to manage where the money is spent. They strive to make the best use of every penny. You can even run fundraising campaigns on Facebook — if the organization is not set up on Facebook as a nonprofit, use personal fundraisers to collect funds and subsequently donate to the organization.
4) Spread awareness about the organization.
We all love being on social media. If you stay off social media, message me — I need to learn from you. However, if you are like most of us, please take a minute and share their Facebook page posts or their website to raise awareness of their mission and work.
Help get the word out about them to your friends and family. Heck, you can even post it as a comment here on this post and we will share it from our social channels to really strengthen the message.
During the holidays last year and in 2018, I had the pleasure to speak with the head of a local shelter in Hoboken, NJ. He is choosing to remain anonymous, so we will call him Carl. I learned from Carl that they see a spike in people asking to donate their time during the holiday season in November and December. He said:
It’s wonderful to see the outpouring of help during those months and it warms my heart to think there are all these amazing people out there. While that’s helpful, it’s important for all shelters and nonprofits in the area to get this type of support consistently throughout the year.
It is common practice for people to give during their respective religious holidays like Ramadan, Diwali, and Christmas, and I am guilty of usually giving only during those times of the year, but this year, that’s changing. These acts of service spread love. They show us all that we can be peaceful, and in doing so, embrace ahimsa.
So now when you read disturbing stats where you wish things would be different, will you choose to react and move on? Or will you choose to be the change?
Be the change.
Meghana Shah is the Founder and CEO of The Parasol Cooperative, a speaker, a mentor, and a mother. She loves creating and fixing things that help improve life, whether at home or at work. You can read more articles from her on her Medium page.
Originally published at https://www.ellevatenetwork.com.