Dear voters who (like me) stood in line last month, filled out a ballot, and snapped a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker:
Now that voting is over, it’s time to get to work.
It’s easy to think voting is our number one job. For months, political campaigns have been telling us one thing and one thing only: go vote. It’s only natural that we’d submit our ballot, drive home, and consider our job well done.
But this is actually backwards. To consider voting a job well done is to think like a campaign and not like a citizen.
If you’ve been whipped into a frenzy this election cycle, there’s a place to channel both your emotions and your influence. That place is Chattanooga, Tn. Getting involved in local politics or community organizations is the strongest way to effect change for the good of your neighbor. So take your emotion, and let it fuel your engagement where it most counts.
If we’ll pause for a moment, take a drive around our city, and speak mask-to-mask with someone, we’ll learn something. They’ll tell us there are issues in Chattanooga that no President will impact but that will impact our community. Local civic engagement is a key way to work through those issues.
But this takes sacrifice. Casting a vote is less burdensome than being involved in our actual, real-life community. We pour out our time and energy to get involved in the community, but we get so much more in return. Turn toward your fellow Chattanoogan by volunteering (our city is home to numerous nonprofits), by learning the ins and outs of local elections (we have an upcoming mayoral race), and—in creative, COVID-aware ways—by eating meals with our neighbors (hospitality is an anecdote to our alienation from one another).
But whatever form your civic engagement takes, don’t let voting be the end of it. Earn that “I Voted” selfie: get involved in the Chattanooga community.