Introducing #SmallActsOfHope - things we can all do

By staff writers
November 17, 2019

Here at Ekklesia we have been thinking about what things ‘ordinary people’ – that’s all of us, one way or another – can do to nurture hope and resist the tide of negativity in these islands and beyond. Part of our response (at the suggestion of a number of friends and allies) is to invite you to join us in creating and enabling #SmallActsOfHope. These will be actions that we can all take. Actions which will make a positive difference on a personal, local, national, or global level. 

In this ongoing project we will periodically relay a selection of #SmallActsOfHope. You can take part in any or all of them – whatever feels appropriate for you. They will be chosen to be as accessible and inclusive as possible, and will specifically aim to:

  •  Improve your own mental health 
  •  Show kindness and compassion to others
  •  Bring people together 
  •  Improve life in your local community
  •  Support the environment, wildlife and biodiversity
  •  Inject truth, accuracy, perspective, hope and respect back into the political debate and political action

We are beginning with some initial suggestions below, but we hope that soon, using the hashtag #SmallActsOfHopeon Twitter and other social media, people will offer their own suggestions – and perhaps share their experiences of what happened when they did their own small acts. Please join in and help spread the hope.

The following examples are about starting with the personal (and the need for sustenance and refreshment) and then reaching out. Such individual actions may seem almost too simple at first. But they are just suggestions, upon which you and others can build. Sometimes we forget to do the simple but vital things in life, to nourish ourselves and others, and to replenish faith in the human goodness that often gets buried by bitterness or anger in public discourse.

 Personal:  

  •  Write a list of things and people you are thankful for. (Try focussing on these, rather than on things that annoy, frustrate and irritate, and see what difference it makes.)
  •  Share some food or practical gifts with neighbours.
  •  Keep stories or examples of change-making that have cheered you and keep them around the home to encourage yourself and others.
  •  Encourage someone who is feeling low or despairing. 
  •  Go for a walk and try to exchange a smile or greeting with every person (or just one person) you encounter. 
  •  Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know (if it seems appropriate and not threatening).
  •  Phone or Skype a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to for a while, just to see how they are.
  •  Take a conscious break from ‘being busy’ to read, watch or listen to something that replenishes your energy or provides inspiration.
  •  Sit in a quiet park or church/temple/mosque/synagogue/public space. Reclaim calm and perspective. 
  •  Create, listen to, or observe, some music or art. 

 Community:

  •  To contribute to the wider world without leaving home, explore https://www.zooniverse.org/  This is an opportunity to be involved in citizen science and research projects, from classifying galaxies to transcribing historical documents and monitoring chimpanzees. The variety of projects means you will probably find something which is of real interest to you.
  •  Visit your local library, if you still have one. As well as the books, there will be events or activities in which you can get involved, and footfall helps keep libraries open.
  •  If you have a local sports club, go to watch a match or event. Such clubs can be a really positive community focus for people of all ages, but are often struggling due to lack of support. We don’t all have to be consumers of the Premier League. 
  •  Support or help a local gardening or environmental project. Clean or tidy part of a public space.
  •  Join a neighbourhood group or community association, or support/publicise one of their events.  
  •  Put a 'Happy to Chat' sign on the park bench you're sitting on. (Make sure there's another bench nearby, so people don't feel press ganged into talking!)

Kindness:

Environment, wildlife and biodiversity: 

  •  If you have a garden, there are many things you can do to support biodiversity. Allow part of your garden to go wild. Create a wildlife pond– even a very small one can become home to frogs and other creatures. Cut a small hole in your fence to allow hedgehogs to pass through. 
  • If you don’t have a garden, a container, hanging basket or window box can still provide food for pollinators. 
  •  You can also ask your local council to think about how they manage road verges, which can provide important habitat for bees, butterflies and insects if they are managed in the right way. See more about that campaign here https://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign/about-the-campaign/
  •  Help neighbours (especially those with mobility problems) with recycling.
  •  If you can’t get involved in direct environmental actions (XR etc.), offer personal support and encouragement to those who can.
  •  Use https://www.freecycle.org and similar local schemes.
  •  Make a small contribution to an environmental organisation, agency or pressure group. 
  •  If you have a car, use it to help others and reduce usage. Try a week on public transport.

Public life and political debate:  

  •  We can all do our little bit to detoxify social media. 
  •  At least one day a week, go on social media with the sole intention of posting good news and celebrating the kindness, courage and talents of your friends, family or community. 
  •  We can often be outraged by offensive things we see on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and feel it’s our moral responsibility to challenge it. Unfortunately, due to the nature of social media, this can serve to amplify offensive views and give bigots a bigger platform. It may often be better to ignore such views and allow them to remain in relative obscurity, although obviously a matter of judgement. 
  •  Alternatively, the best course of action may be to report an offensive or threatening account to the appropriate authority.
  •  Share a positive idea, action or proposal for change. 
  •  Share stories of hope and personal or social transformation.
  •  Seek out and share examples of petitions or actions which have made a difference, to help lower the tide of (self-fulfilling) cynicism.
  • Offer support to someone who might need it (including people in public life, who are often receiving huge amounts of abuse and negativity).
  •  Talk to or engage with someone you disagree with, and really try to understand their perspective – their own hopes and fears.
  •  Create a space / opportunity for reflection, deliberation or thought beyond confrontational headlines. 
  •  Support alternative media and fact-checking bodies that promote social justice and truthfulness (including The Ferret, OpenDemocracy, Fact Check and many others.)

 

AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Of course, there are many other #SmallActsOfHope which might seem more consciously political, spiritual, social or transformational than some of these. Feel free to expand the idea. 

Here, we wanted to start with what often (wrongly) gets dismissed as ‘the mundane' and inject it with fresh purpose. 

If you connect with Ekklesia, you almost certainly engage with public policy, politics, peacemaking, environmental action, public debate, parties or movements for change, a faith or belief community, and more. 

These are all good and positive things to be involved in. Large numbers of people, however, have little direct contact with many of them, living their lives with families, neighbours, social activities and networks. 

#SmallActsOfHope are therefore also about reaching beyond our usual circle of activity and busyness, both to connect with ourselves and others in fresh ways, and perhaps to break down some of the barriers between ‘politics’ (or whatever) and ‘everyday life’. 

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FURTHER RESOURCES: 

* What are #SmallActsOfHope and why do we need them? Some thoughts from Ekklesia staff. 

* Hope Rediscovered and rediscovering #SmallActsOfHope - a reflection for Christians. 

* Words Out of Silence and rediscovering #SmallActsOfHope - a reflection for searchers. 

 

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.