To Those Who Turn the Gears of Progress

To Those Who Turn the Gears of Progress December 19, 2016

Image via Pixabay

Back in November, I had the privilege of attending Skepticon (which you can read more about here and here), and one of the highlights for me was having conversations with really interesting and fun people. Mostly, these were just informal ones, but I did sit down for a few chats that I recorded via Facebook Live.

One of these was with one of my favorite people in the atheist/secular movement: Monette Richards. (You can catch our conversation over here.)

Monette listening to Skepticon 9 workshop participant (photo Josiah Mannion, Biblename Photo)
Monette listening to Skepticon 9 workshop participant (photo Josiah Mannion, Biblename Photo)

If you don’t know who Monette is, you could be forgiven because she is, in my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets of the secular movement. She’s the president of CFI-NE Ohio, which will hold its fifth Secular Summit in January at the Ohio Statehouse to train attendees on lobbying and provide an opportunity for them to speak to their state legislators. She’s also the co-president of Secular Woman and one of the organizers behind the Secular Woman Work conference.

Above all, she gets shit done. And she’s not alone in that. There are many, many people doing the hard work that the secular movement rests upon who you really aren’t likely to hear anything about (or who you hear about much less than they deserve).

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know more than a few people in the movement over the past few years. A lot of them are great people. Some of them are jerks. (Still others seem pretty okay…until you get to know them better.)

The ones who really impress me with their passion and their drive to make real change, though, are generally the ones you don’t see getting up to talk at conferences. They don’t get the limelight — often, they don’t seem to even care about it. They’re more comfortable having conversations with other people and planning ways to make a difference.

Pursuing the spotlight is easy. Doing work when you know you are not going to get the credit is much harder, and it takes a kind of dedication that is sadly too uncommon.

I’ve been that person before (although not nearly as much these days). You work and work, and maybe if you’re lucky, someone will pay attention enough to realize how much is resting on your efforts and say something about it. Too much of this work, however, is simply thankless.

But I can also say this: It is incredibly important, especially now, that we do this kind of work. Forget the self-aggrandizing need for attention. In the US, there are a number of ways in which we can expect attacks on church-state separation under the false rubric of “religious freedom,” and LGBT rights and reproductive rights will be just a few of those areas where there will have to be resistance.

I wrote on Election Day that we would need to buckle in. Well, now’s the time to get ready to do more than that. Maybe that means calling or writing letters to legislators (both state and federal). Maybe it means finding out how to do better lobbying. Maybe it means finding ways to support people and organizations (whether in the secular movement or not) who are already doing that work so thanklessly.

But we must do it, not because there’s notoriety or praise to be earned but because there’s fulfillment in knowing that you did something to make a difference.

Great change has always rested in the hands of people whose labors go largely overlooked. Better to be in such company, I say, than with those who did nothing but take more than their fair share of credit.

Image via Pixabay

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