6 O’Clock BS – Joining Groups


Look at that – it’s six o’clock! Today let’s talk about how to choose a cause. If you believe that getting involved in groups, issues, debates, community building, et cetera is a good way to spend your time, then it’s not an issue of finding an issue, it’s a matter of choosing one (or several). Thanks to the internet you can find or get involved with almost any issue from almost any location, and there is no end of groups that are looking for people to help spread their message, fight for their cause or to just hang out and be social. In many cases, the only limiting factors to your involvement are your time, your attention or interest, and your sanity.

I have many interests, and I find that when I attend one awesome event, I’m usually missing out on an equally awesome event that’s happening nearby at the same time. If I try to split my time – attend one group’s event this week, another the next – then I’m not giving either group my full attention. And that’s okay sometimes, but there is a breaking point. Over time I’ve learned to focus my efforts on a few issues, and lend support to others that I just can’t fit in – either by by writing a check, helping to spread the word, or participating in occasional activism that is organized by someone else more involved in that movement than me.

But what if you’re not involved yet? Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed with options that you decided not to join anything? What do you do then? How do you possibly pick a cause out of all the causes out there?

You just dive in.

Attend a local meetup, join a Facebook group, start to follow an organization online – if you feel good there, go to the next meeting or take the next step. If you don’t, choose another group. Or choose something that you feel is the foundation for a number of your interests. Perhaps politics might fit the bill – it touches everything. Or children’s health or childrens’ rights – everyone starts out as child, and a healthy, happy child has a good chance of becoming a healthy, happy adult. One atheist told me that she has many interests – GLBT rights, reproductive freedom, equality for women – and so decided to put her efforts behind atheist activism because she felt that religion is the root of many forms of discrimination that she abhors.

So now you’ve chosen to get involved with a cause. How to get started?

You just dive in.

My local atheist group is highly diversified, and if they don’t offer it they’ll advertise another group that does. We advertise meetings with an atheist/agnostic/humanist focus for people interested in poetry, critical thought, atheist radio, parenting, secular Alcoholic Anonymous, human rights, female freethinkers, socializing, book clubs, happy hour, blood drives, crafting, Toastmasters, weekday luncheons, TED talks, community picnics, gaming, drinking, author readings…so much! These aren’t just individual, one-time events thrown by Minnesota Atheists – these are recurring meetings that are often led by people who have an interest in the specific topics. The people who run and attend these meetings regularly have chosen their causes.

So find a community, pick a meeting or get together that they’re hosting and check it out. If you like the people and the focus of the group, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back.

That’s a big thing for me. If I don’t like the way a group feels, I don’t come back. I find another group. Remember – there are always other groups to join! Don’t feel locked in, and don’t feel guilty for not returning. You have to enjoy how you’re spending your time – or at least feel motivated or energized that you’re involved in a cause that’s worth the occasional headache!

Don’t worry about getting involved in The One True Cause. Don’t worry that if you join this cause now you won’t get to experience that one later. I’ve found that getting involved in one thing often leads to opportunities in other areas that I never dreamed of.

Just dive in. You’ll find a cause that’s right for you.

How or why did you choose your cause? Do you have any advice for people looking to get involved in a group?

Comments

  1. anthonyallen says

    You just dive in.

    I love how simple that sounds. I love it so much, that I’ll hear it again.

    You just dive in.

    But wait a tick. What about those of us who can’t “just dive in.” What of those of us for whom it is a daily struggle to simply drag yourself out of bed so that we can go to a familiar place, like work, or school? What of those of us for whom the fear of interacting with new people is so bad that we even have trouble commenting semi-anonymously? (and if this comment actually makes it past the preview button, it’s a big deal, trust me.)

    What of us? What can we do? How can we help?

    I know that this was not at all what you meant by the post, but I can’t help but feel a bit slighted by that statement, much as I love it. “Diving in” just simply isn’t something that I and those like me can do without an explicit invitation. You might as well ask us to jump out of a moving car driving up a mountainside. Sure, we may survive, but it’s gonna hurt like hell.

    You just dive in.

    Perhaps not so easy as it sounds, eh?

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