Apathy? Not Me!

This article originally appeared at i711.com.

Recently, I was at a chapter meeting for an organization. When the floor opened to nominations for president, nearly every person in the room was nominated – and every person declined. Everyone kept saying, “Me? Oh, no, not me!” As I watched each person shake his or her head, I became more and more let down. (Disclaimer: I also declined the opportunity because of involvement in many other organizations.) To be an officer requires a lot of work, yes, but it’s also an honor to represent the community, especially for a chapter that has as much history as this one does. Had nobody accepted the presidency, the chapter would have folded.

This “not me!” syndrome is happening with so many organizations within the Deaf community. Of course, apathy isn’t a new problem; in fact, my parents’ 1972 Gallaudet yearbook has a full-page picture of a student with APATHY on his forehead. That picture dates the concept of apathy at least three decades back. Even so, when I was little, my parents often took me to local chapter meetings for various organizations. I was usually off in the corner playing with friends, but I remember looking up and seeing members talking about why they were the best candidates for different positions. I often studied their sometimes eloquent, sometimes comically nervous speeches. I always looked at these individuals with awe, because I considered them “important” – important enough to be trusted with the organization’s doings.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone give a candidacy speech, probably because people often run uncontested or are coerced into accepting positions with organizations. Last year, when I became vice president of the Minnesota Association for Deaf Citizens, I ran uncontested, as did the other candidates for different positions. It’s always the same story: when I ask people why they don’t join certain organizations, they say that they’re “not into politics” (“not into politics” seems to be the standard answer, even if it’s a book club) or are too busy.

Busy? I can understand family and work obligations – these are, without doubt, important commitments. But the irony is that the very same ones who say they’re too busy usually aren’t involved with any other organizations, either. Besides, it doesn’t take much time to fill out a membership application. Even being “only” a member is so very important in supporting the organization.

As I watched the “Not me!” syndrome emerging at this chapter meeting, I worried about our future. How could we encourage people to stay involved? Without community involvement or membership, organizations become weak – or worse yet, die away – and then our collective voice becomes weaker when we try to maintain our rights and issues near and dear. Just as I considered giving up more of my time by becoming an officer in order to ‘save’ the chapter, someone nominated his wife, who replied via pager that she accepted. The husband then nominated himself as vice-president, and I moved that they choose a secretary/treasurer at their own discretion. Problem solved – for now.

I left the meeting still feeling jaded. No matter how old I am, I will continue participating in organizations either as a member or officer until I’m physically unable to. It’s my duty as a community member – something I learned very early on as a Deaf child in a Deaf club.

Apathy? Not me!

Copyrighted material, used by permission. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

Related posts:

Comments Closed