Reflections on Nonprofits, Social Media, and “Normalcy”

Reflections on Nonprofits, Social Media, and “Normalcy” March 7, 2019
One World Everybody Eats 2019 Summit in New Orleans
One World Everybody Eats 2019 Summit in New Orleans. There are two Pagans in this group.

Sometimes life takes you unimaginable places.

A year ago, I wrote about finding the starlight; figuring out how to be my magical self in a mundane world.

I’m not sure I’ve met my goal, but I most definitely have had one heck of an adventure trying!

Lately, my Facebook feed has become an area of contention. I’ve added so many “friends” from Mundania, and the contrast between these “normal” folks and my Pagan family has become more and more pronounced.

There seems to be a tendency in the Pagan Community, to write off “normal” or “mundane” folks as somehow unimaginative, unintelligent, unenlightened, and undeserving of our time and attention. I’d like to challenge that notion.

In the past six months, especially, I have met a host of wonderful, non-Pagan folks, doing wonderful things.

I’ve made my career between food service and nonprofits. In my current job, the two are married together, and things are distinctly secular.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting a man who founded a nonprofit with the goal of making resources more readily accessible to people experiencing homelessness, and another man who works for this nonprofit, coordinating social services to make a space that is safe and welcoming as well as helpful. While the space was secular (the building is owned by the government), the staff was sub-contracted through a Catholic charity network.

This January, I visited New Orleans to attend the One World Everybody Eats annual summit, and again met a host of wonderful people doing wonderful things. I was one of two Pagans who attended the conference. The people I traveled with were atheists. Almost everyone else at the conference was some flavor of Christian or Agnostic. About half the folks there were keeping their work secular; the other half had distinctly Christian branding to what they were doing.

Others in the Pagan Community have written about Paganism and resources, or rather, the lack of them, so I won’t do that here. What I will say, is that as a community that is so very focused on social issues and creating change in the world, I am not seeing a notable presence of Pagans in the nonprofit world.

Granted, lots of people aren’t “out.” I get that. But I’m also adept at playing a little game I call “spot the Pagan,” and I’m not spotting that many.

So, I return to my Facebook feed, and what’s bumming me out about it. I see a lot of folks I’ve met at one festival or another, posting memes about being weird, misunderstood, different from “normal” people, etc. I see a lot of posts about frustration with the world in which we live; frustration with health issues, poverty, and social stigma.

What I do not see, is “Look at this cool thing I just did to help!” posts.

Folks I’ve met this year outside of the Pagan Community do more of this kind of posting. They tend to share images of themselves out with friends, spending time with family, and volunteering.

For all our talk of community, a fraction of the Pagan folks I know post like this.

I’m noticing (again, not scientifically, just, in my own feed), that many folks in my Pagan network are focusing a lot of their social media energy on their frustrations. For a group of people who talk so much about intention and magic and attracting what you put out there… Well, I think we can do better.

There are exceptions, of course. I see from much more positivity from people who identify themselves as leaders, authors, and musicians. I see a lot of posting about their accomplishments, their travels, and people they’re connecting with. I think this kind of posting reflects their inner scaffolding.

If half of magic is belief, believing ourselves to be shunned, is not a helpful frame of mind to hold. Believing ourselves to be unacceptable by larger societal standards, is not helpful. And believing ourselves to be somehow superior to “normal” people, because we are so very different from them, is also not helpful. That is “othering” people who we do not feel fit into our way of being, people, who if we saw them in a different light, might prove to be valuable allies.

I’m starting with me. I’m doing my level best to insert more humor into my social media posting. If something makes me smile, from a happy place, rather than a sarcastic one, I post it. If something makes me feel empowered, without putting down someone else, I post it. If something lifts up others, says something important about the state of the world, or promotes a social change I’d like to see, I post it.

I’ve also made a point of posting moments where I feel proud. Moments where I feel happy. Moments that if I kept a scrapbook, I’d want to remember.

I’d like to challenge you, to take a deeper look at your social media habits. And to think about how what you post reflects your internal world and outer actions. And I’d like to challenge you to think about the issues that you feel passionate about and reflect on what you do out in the physical world, to create change.

I want to see more Pagans in my secular nonprofit adventures. If you’re already doing this work, great! If you’re not, and unsure of where to start, please please please send me a message; I’d love to help.

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  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    Ashleigh…welcome back to writing on your blog! I totally agree that we as pagans don’t do as much as we could, or maybe should with non-profits. I’m really glad that I met you when I did, and my how things in your life are so much more positive than they were several years ago! Keep up the good work, fight the good fight, and you’ll conquer the non-profit worlds. You’ll let them know that not all of us are as scary as they might think we are! We have values that are as good or better than a lot of those “mundane” folks I have on my FB feed. I’ve been selectively cleaning up my feed too! Think positive, smile, and what do you know..people will smile back!

  • Thanks for writing this really great piece. Working at a mid-sized non-profit myself, I am neither entirely in nor out of the broom closet (or whatever you call it when you’re “Pagan” by Western standards, but not a witch). People know I am maybe a little weird, but it’s not considered work-appropriate conversation. I am pretty sure I know maybe one healer, one psychic, and maybe a handful of hardcore meditators. But most people do not register on the spiritual spectrum at all.

    Absolutely worth noting (and perhaps emulating) is the significant number of deeply religious people I see whose faith is aligned with their work to improve the world. Being able to integrate these parts of their lives, they do seem to enjoy significant success.

  • Thanks for the feedback, Christopher! I’m glad to hear that you’re out there doing the work. 🙂