Every day we are inundated with fearful messages and images. From the shooting near Champaign Central High school last week to the ongoing religious wars to scandalous and immoral acts in our highest offices by people who supposedly represent us, it seems we cannot get a break from all that is wrong in the world. It is as if fear has become a weapon to control the masses. In America. In 2017.

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope, a small sliver of hope that with time could turn into a movement unlike any before. It could be the second act in our evolution as a nation and the finale of the civil rights movement where we finally find our common journey as human beings to be greater than all that seeks to divide.

That journey begins with you and your choices and actions. There are plenty of opportunities to be engaged in this community. The question is, how will you engage? Where to begin is always the question, and there are many routes to action in creating a better community.

Here are some options to get you started on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

8 a.m.,  IHotel, Faith in Place Breakfast

Religion and spirituality can be a beautiful, wonderful thing. It can also be ugly and divisive (perhaps it is imperfect humans that make it so). One can drive down the streets of C-U and find many places of worship, but few of us seem to be aware of the Interfaith Alliance. Their facebook page describes them as “a coalition of faith communities, social service agencies and political leaders united to support the common good in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Last month they hosted their second annual interfaith Thanksgiving program titled, “A tapestry of faith and community: Our lives are woven together.”

Faith in Place is another organization that “empowers Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth, providing resources to educate, connect and act for healthier communities.” This Thursday, December 14, at 8 a.m. the IHotel will host their annual Faith in Place breakfast.  You are invited to come learn what Faith in Place has been doing this year and hear about the organization’s future plans.  It’s a great time for newcomers to get acquainted and learn how to become involved.

6 p.m., Champaign Public Library, Moms Demand Action

Perhaps you are one who has always believed in sensible gun safety laws but up until this point haven’t acted. Perhaps the shooting outside Central High School will be the impetus required to move you to action. Great news!  If you come to the Champaign Public library at 6 p.m. this Thursday, you can meet up with C-U Moms Demand Action as the group spends an hour holding a vigil. Find out what C-U Moms Demand Action is doing to help make ours a safer community. It's a family-friendly event, and all are welcome.

7 p.m., Champaign Public Library, Candidate Forum for IL-13

One necessary component for creating a stronger community is to actively engage in the political process, even if we do so grudgingly and maybe for the first time in our adult lives. We know that we are where we are politically because too many of us are complacent and don't even vote. Like many, I only recently became politically involved in response to deep concerns about the direction we are moving. We must find leaders who speak for us and listen to us. That is where my first glimmer of hope for the future of our community began: meeting one of the four candidates in line to unseat Rodney Davis in 2018. It was refreshing to hear an eloquent speaker with passion for real change. I look forward to meeting the other three candidates at the candidate forum held this Thursday, December 14, at 7 p.m. at the Champaign Public Library, and I hope you will consider attending as well. This is a chance to meet the four candidates who wish to challenge Rodney Davis for his seat in district 13.  It is a time to find out who they are and what these candidates believe, why they are each running for office, and to see which candidate most reflects your own personal vision for a better tomorrow. In the spring you will have the opportunity to vote for one of these candidates and become a part of the democratic process that just might be the spark that will alter the course of history. After all, District 13 has defeated the Capital before, even if it was only in a dystopian novel.  Let’s make it happen in current events.