I readily confess that I spend alot of time on social media sites. I joined Facebook when I moved to Cleveland,finding myself in the freshly awkward position of living in a different city than my adult children. Seeing their photos and posts on FB eased the separation anxiety for this mom. My interest grew when I saw how many friends and colleagues were already there! Quickly after that, I realized what an important tool it was for my church in building interest and communication of events, etc. But until recently I hadn’t found a compelling reason to be much of a presence on Twitter.
That changed because an organization that I help lead, God Before Guns, was planning a Walk and Rally this past Saturday. It was our 4th major event in less than a year of formation, but it was our first truly public and city-wide event — walking a mile across a heavily traveled bridge, rallying in a park at a Cleveland landmark, the Westside Market. We needed to get the word out in every possible way. We needed people to show up.
I guess the social media blitz worked as we had our largest gathering yet. 120 persons committed enough to the cause of ending gun violence that they took a Saturday morning to walk, sing, listen and learn, pray, and unite despite and through our diversity in age, race, faith, and neighborhood. Speakers included our Rep. Bill Patmon, mothers who have lost children to gun violence, Jane Burgett — Ohio Lead for Moms Demand ‘action, and Aramis Sundiata, president of the Ohio State Student Association. Each has both personal and patriotic stake in this movement and spoke passionately . We all want our country to be safer for our children and grandchildren.
Social media plays an equally important role in the aftermath of an event. Posting photos. Sharing the news with people who could not be there. Continuing to build awareness for whatever the next event will be. You have to develop a thick skin when you decide to use Twitter, as an event such as this one brings out some very ugly, angry, and sometimes threatening responses. I choose to believe this shows that we are making a difference and that we are being heard, and our next event will be larger still. And the positives far outweigh the negative. For just one example: Thanks for bringing your work out of the walls of the church and into the streets! It’s just the beginning!
And so, we celebrate the success of the event, but only briefly. There is more to do — more people to reach — and there’s no time like the present. 86 people will die today on the wrong side of a gun, and 8 of them will be children and teens. The Ohio Legislature will be considering whether to vote for a bill for safe storage of weapons or against a further expansion of a Stand Your Ground law. And that’s just in Ohio — wherever you live, be concerned enough to see what legislation is pending. And then become involved. Because for however powerful social media is, never doubt the power of showing up. Being present. Meeting each other face-to-face. Praying and learning together. Respecting each others stories and truth.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it is the only thing that ever has… Margaret Mead. And I say: we are a larger group than we even realize.
Pastor. Parent. Activist.