Quality of Life in San Francisco and how we can improve it
One of my favorite quotations of all time is, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is succinct, clear, and gets right to the point. That said, some of the changes we want to see are often monumental to achieve.
Like most people, I often complain about politicians, but would never want to run for office; bureaucrats, but would never want to work at the DMV; bad actors/actresses, but would never want to get in front of an audience or camera. However, there are other things I would want to see done better, which affect me directly and which I can accomplish in a community-driven approach.
Approximately 10 years ago, the homeless situation, littering, and even public urination and defecation started to become more commonplace, even in our neighborhood, the southern slope of Bernal Heights, which is far from downtown. I remember one morning out walking my dogs when suddenly one of them became agitated. It took me a few seconds to figure out why. He had spotted a German shepherd in a car with its owner. The owner, a young woman in her 20s, began trying to calm her dog down as it too became agitated. I thought of asking her if she needed something, such as a meal or water, etc. The dogs did not allow for any interaction. Later, I thought I might go back, but I convinced myself that she was probably gone or that she would find a shelter or something.
On another walk with my dogs, we kept seeing broken glass on the same spot on the sidewalk day after day. My personal belief had always been not to clean up other people’s messes. So, I left the broken glass where it was, but kept complaining about people who leave their trash anywhere, plus why they feel they have to break glass bottles anyway? A few days later, one of my dogs walked on ahead and stepped in the glass and cut his paw, which required a visit to the vet. I kept my pride and beliefs intact by leaving the glass right where I saw it, but it cost me stress, time, and money, which could have been avoided if I had just cleared the glass away. And more importantly, my dog would not have been hurt if I had spent 10 seconds clearing the glass from the sidewalk.
The moral of the story is, as the quotation states, to take action ourselves, rather than wait for others to do so, even if it’s the people who caused the problem. And isn’t that what volunteerism and activism are all about? We can wait for the homeless to climb out of their situation independently, or we can wait for world leaders to stop wars, or for politicians to be fair to women and minorities, etc. But how long will that take? And how many people will be mistreated in one way or another? Or, in my case, how many dogs will cut their paws on a piece of broken glass?
Unfortunately, there is not a shortage of causes to fight for in the City. But fortunately, there is also no shortage of non-profits and public agency collaborations trying to improve life in San Francisco, whether it is homelessness and poverty, or pushing for less vehicle traffic or various human rights issues. You will also find fellow residents who are sympathetic and who will want to help, make a donation, or join in the cause.
So, the first thing to do once you feel that you want to be part of the solution is to pick a cause you feel strongly about. Then you can research the various agencies and volunteer opportunities online, what they do specifically, their mission and vision, and what they are looking for as far as involvement. Additionally, there is a great website where non-profits post their request for volunteers worldwide. You can use filters to select your location and cause. The website is titled: www.powerof.org. Also, if you have children, there are opportunities for them to learn about helping out others. Some schools even incorporate volunteer activities into their educational program, such as food and clothing drives, meal distribution, etc.
Personally, I find that trying to work on a solution to a problem, such as homelessness, which requires a lot of time, effort, and money to resolve, makes me feel more empowered than doing nothing and, thereby, feeling frustrated and complacent.
Jorge Romero is an accredited professional in sustainability and a past and current member of various non-profit organizations. He is a principal at PM Workshops, is currently living in Barcelona with his family, but has lived in San Francisco in the past and still calls it home.