In politics, you get a lot of blowhards who demand an answer to variations of, “Do you know who I am?” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Who do you say I am?” But in life, most of us spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to figure out who we are ourselves.
Simon Peter, of course, correctly responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To those self-important politicians, the correct answer is, “I don’t know, but you work for me.”
But who are you? How do you describe yourself? As a spouse, a parent, a child? Perhaps you would talk about your vocation, hometown, or college? Maybe your faith, or denomination? None of those things are necessarily wrong and, in fact, are probably all correct.
A few weeks ago, I asked folks if they would describe themselves as a “grassroots activist.” That isn’t exactly what I was asking, though. What I really wanted to know was how they see themselves in our republic.
The answers didn’t disappoint me.
Some folks explained that they were citizens, first and foremost. Any sort of “activism,” grassroots or otherwise, was merely a product of that.
That’s how our Founding Fathers would have thought of you, as the leader in our republic. Not the president, governor, mayor, or judge; those folks work for you and your fellow citizens. To our Founding Fathers, you rest at the pinnacle of the civic hierarchy.
Other folks answered the question in relationship to other citizens. They wrote about being keyboard warriors or distributors of data.
One lady responded that she didn’t think of herself as much of an activist; after all, she wrote, she just helps out on phone banks. But I know for a fact she also stuffs envelopes for causes and candidates. And does some light block-walking. And helps out at her church’s “soup pantry.” She just sees herself as someone who has the time and does what she can.
For what it is worth, I happen to know she also spends time worrying that she isn’t doing enough.
She might be the most extreme example, but she and so many others like her perfectly fit my definition of what it means to be a grassroots activist and an engaged citizen. A grassroots activist in our republic is someone who sees a problem, takes ownership, and gets to work addressing it. Truth be told, most of them needed a kick-start at first. Someone had to ask them to get engaged, but then there was no stopping them.
That is the essence of being an engaged person in a self-governing republic.
These are the people who joined Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls. They are the ones who, when told they could leave before a battle without dishonor, nonetheless stuck around with Gideon and took the “drink the water” test. They followed Judas Maccabee into battle. They stood alongside Levi Preston at the battles of Lexington and Concord. They crossed the line drawn by William Travis, willing to fight and die at the Alamo.
What about you? Who are you? Are you a grassroots activist? Are you an engaged individual? A self-governing citizen? A child of God?
The answer is revealed in what you do, and who you do it with. There is no shortage of needs in your community and around the nation. If necessary, consider this your kick-start. Or, a request for you to grab your neighbor and get them going.
Just as you are, whoever you are, our republic needs you.