If you live long enough, you’ll witness enough devastation to cause you to question the goodness of man. It’s inevitable. The statistics are staggering. We are overwhelmed by daily reminders that people are seeking refuge from war and scarcity all over the world. The question among social justice educators is: are we ignoring the issues or simply suffering from empathy overload? Research shows we are not ignoring the issues. We just don’t know which issue to tackle first. Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped into US water.  A total of 553,742 people are experiencing homelessness on a nightly basis in the US.  According to federal government data, 60% of the people in immigrant prisons are in privately-owned profitable institutions. One of the organizations profiting the most currently holds 15,000 prisoners in facilities across the United States. 
The statistics above are current and serve as a mere snapshot of what’s happening in real-time in America, as this article is being written. With a 24-hour news cycle, destruction is revolving and notifications are reminders that the Earth is in danger and people are terrified. So many people are stilled with an overwhelming sense of moral obligation to “do something” but have no idea how to separate and prioritize the needs. The needs are astronomical in number and while empathy is at an all-time high, energy is not. More Americans are exhausted and anxious than ever. By the time the alarm rings in the morning and the second snooze is silenced, the day is demanding too much. Work days are cyclical because email and texting empowers employers to reach out and continue conversations during evenings and weekends. Opportunities to disconnect and reboot are threatened by social media which draws users to record-breaking daily screentime. People are scared, tired, and busier than ever.
Researchers who despise multitasking and advocate for simplifying life are convinced that doing something -more specifically- doing one thing is more realistic and more likely to improve performance and produce desirable results than attempting to do everything. Instead of saving the penguins today, preventing and putting out forest fires tomorrow, and adopting 12 puppies this weekend, choose one cause that means something to you and contribute. Here are three ways to confront empathy overload + do something right now:
Give a latte. The cost of one coffee or tea (the average cost of coffee is $5) at your favorite shop is a great weekly contribution to organizations that are transparent about how they use money to feed, clothe, and help people. If you don’t have $5 to give away, that’s okay. Don’t let anyone guilt you into giving away money you need to survive. There are other ways to serve. Click here to select a cause and implement change in your own way.
Buy from brands you believe. This seems simple. But with more brands pretending to have substance and soul, it takes research to find organizations that really donate shoes, blankets, and clothing to those in need as a component of the transaction when you purchase their apparel. Click here to shop a brand that donates portions of its proceeds to providing people without homes with warm blankets.
Fire the moderator. We’re learning how dangerous it can be to learn about our candidates and who they really are after they’re already elected. Why wait on paid moderators to ask predictable questions that don’t directly tell us how politicians plan to improve conditions for our communities? Social media makes it effortless to follow and communicate with candidates. Many candidates are tweeting more and responding to questions the American people pose on social media. Why not get in on the conversation to create real and necessary dialogue and potentially design a better country for ourselves and our children? Click here to see statistics about which politicians respond and engage with the American people. Then reach out. Ask the hard questions that matter most to you.
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