“This is great, but how does it really work” is a pretty common refrain I hear during workshops and presentations.
“Hey pal, your ideas are nice and all, but it’s still just talk and we need action in this town.”
I explain, the idea of combating apathy is all about action. It is all about getting to work. It is the antithesis of planning, it’s just doing. Pick a thing and just do it, no committee needed.
Need to explain more.
Well, the problem then lies with me. If I can’t get a message through, I can’t blame anyone else. So I am going to have to do things different. If talking about taking action in a workshop doesn’t work, and why should it, I guess we will have to take action.
A colleague reached out yesterday about hosting a workshop in the South and I suggested a Civic Pride Workshop, but with a twist. We aren’t going to just talk about combating apathy by fostering civic pride, we are actually going to do it. We are going to leave the meeting room and get our hands dirty. What better way to understand how something works, than to experience firsthand.
In the morning, I will make the case that apathy has run rampant for a reason. Explaining that most cities have removed everything people care about. Systematically, those things that attach people to their place, have been obliterated and apathy is what they SHOULD feel. We have stopped passing down the lessons of community and pride and action. Most people today don’t know how to take care of their town, because no one ever taught them. We will walk through how civic pride functions and how we can go about building our pride muscles.
Break for lunch.
Then things should get interesting.
No one is coming back to the meeting room. It is time to learn firsthand how these concepts work. Enter shovels, trash bags, paint scrapers, screwdrivers, and sweat…lots and lots of sweat. For this training, we are working with the host community to find us an apathy site. That place people have walked past for years and said, “someone should do something about this” That someone is us. This is the lesson. It doesn’t take years for someone to fix a problem. It doesn’t require multiple phone calls to the city or a committee meeting. It simply takes a few people, with a willingness to sweat, an afternoon of effort.
My apologies to my colleague for having to explain to attendees that they have to bring work boots.
We are going to learn how to fight apathy by taking action. In a few hours, when that lot has been cleared, and the weeds pulled, trash picked up, flowers planted, paint scraped, new paint applied, everyone is going to learn something else… something new. Everyone will learn the feeling of civic pride. Not talk about it, but feel it. Actually feel the sense of accomplishment of having done something meaningful for their town.
Because in the end, apathy is only a concept and pride is only a feeling, and talking about them is only so effective. But taking action, well that is where we can change the world.