We Can Still Be the Change We Want to See in the World

Michelle J. Kenoyer
Riverview, FL
United States

On the Wednesday after the election, my husband and I were stunned, saddened, and angry — not just with the results, but with our fellow Americans who had chosen a racist, hateful autocrat over a tolerant, wise political leader who'd brought many years of experience to his lack thereof. Yet, we went to work as usual and sent our two teenage sons to school. Life still had to go on, even in the darkest of hours.

In our respective offices, my husband and I each noticed that a pall had been cast over our workspaces. Coworkers called in sick, leaving us in the skeleton crews to eye each other uncomfortably, saying little, only instant-messaging our disbelief in the previous night's results to our closest confidantes.

Not having a busy day ahead of me, I resorted to cleaning out my email inbox and noticed a message from my older son's Spanish teacher. She was having her students collect personal hygiene items for the area's migrant workers, and the due date to get the donations to class was quickly approaching.

Knowing my older son had already ridden his bike home from school, I picked up my younger son from tutoring that evening and told him that we were going shopping for his older brother's Spanish class. When he asked me why, I told him that his older brother and his classmates were working on a donation drive for the migrant workers in the area — many of whom did exhausting physical labor for long hours and little pay, and could barely afford to buy even basic necessities like soap and shampoo.

So together, the two of us filled a shopping basket with deodorant, shampoo, body wash, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other personal care items we agreed would benefit the migrant workers whom my older son's Spanish teacher had endeavored to help. We checked out, left the store, and headed to our family minivan with the bags of goods.

On the drive home, it crossed my mind that the recipients of these donated items might one day soon be deported to countries with conditions they so desperately wanted to escape — so much that they'd do the arduous, thankless, and often undignified physical labor at a fraction of our country's legal minimum wage. This thought filled me with sadness, and I could only think what in God's name had my country just done? I tried to console myself that our contribution to their current plight would give them some temporary comfort, but that consolation was cold comfort to me.

As I drove, my younger son commented on the election and worried for the fate of the undocumented workers whose lives were now in upheaval as a result of what happened the day before. He and his brother attend racially diverse schools where they are not sheltered from the realities and fears of what their peers — who are African American and Latino/a, and of differing socioeconomic backgrounds — face every day. I responded that, yes, it was a frightening time for our country, and that we as people of relative privilege must look out for and do whatever we can to help those of our neighbors who live in fear of losing everything.

Today was the due date for my older son's Spanish class to get in their donations, and my older son reported to me that his class ranked second out of all of the school's Spanish classes to collect donated items. I'm encouraged that my son's Spanish teacher and other teachers at his school are setting an example for kindness, generosity, and activism during a time where these human qualities are so direly needed.

It's a dark time for our country, and our world. It's enough to make me feel powerless and hopeless. But contributing with my sons to help disenfranchised people who became even moreso after the 8th enabled me to feel a little less powerless and a bit more hopeful, even.

We can still be the change we want to see in this world, even— and especially — when it is hard.