Our Actions, Multiplied, Can Change the World

Note: Judi Devereux died on April 30, 2009, after many years of living with ALS. She was a valued member of the Community Shares board and a strong supporter of Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE), one of our member groups. We appreciate all that she did to support Community Shares, GSAFE, and other community organizations.

 

From The Wisconsin State Journal:

 

I want to believe that each of my actions, however small, will coalesce and grow into a world that affirms the inherent worth and potential of all its people. A world that consistently protects the environment, protects our civil rights, and ensures that workers receive fair compensation.

So, how do we grow small, individual actions into a world that we want to inhabit? What do those ideas look like in action?

I see those ideas in action every day in many of Madison’s small, grassroots nonprofits that are a part of Community Shares of Wisconsin.

Since 1971, CSW is the place to go to support 52 nonprofit organizations that work on diverse social issues — such as empowering people with disabilities and working for a just, equitable society.

As a straight ally of gay people, I find that some groups are more meaningful to me. This includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups like Fair Wisconsin, OutReach and the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE).

Recently I visited the exhibition, Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945, which had been on display at UW-Madison Memorial Library.

The exhibition, co-sponsored by GSAFE, included more than 200 reproductions of photos, documents, and artwork that examined the Nazi regime’s efforts to eradicate homosexuality and the devastating effects the regime had on the gay community.

While the exhibition was disturbing, I found comfort in the fact that the events happened more than 60 years ago. Surely we have made progress since then.

Not so fast. Also on display was a world map depicting current “laws prohibiting same-sex activity between consenting adults.” In 2008, 86 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex acts among adults, many with imprisonment. Seven allow the death penalty as punishment.

While the United States has put these draconian measures behind us, we shouldn’t feel satisfied. We still have no federal legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I know that I possess rights that I have taken largely for granted. I live where I want, love whom I want, and expect the basic right to my physical safety.

But lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not enjoy all of those same rights. To deny those rights perpetuates the victimization of an entire class of U.S. citizens. And that is unfair.

However, there is good news. Homophobia is not inborn, it is cultural. People learn prejudice as they grow.

That is why I support groups like Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools through Community Shares.

But GSAFE is only one of 52 equally worthy CSW nonprofits that are on the front lines, speaking out for people in need and advocating for positive, long-term change. Your donation to CSW gives you an opportunity to share in the decisions that shape your life and the world you want to inhabit.

So when I sit down at my computer to make my year-end donations, I am going to Community Shares’ Web site (communityshares.com) and make several donations to those groups that best reflect my world view.

And this year I am not going to feel embarrassed by even my smallest donation because I know that if there are enough people like me out there, taking this one small action, we can change the world.

Devereux is a designer and a board member of Community Shares of Wisconsin.

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