Community Engagement


~Why some may not have voted

I was recently asked to speak about community engagement.  I sat and listened to a highly educated man, who spoke before me, tell others why some people don’t vote. 

“People don’t vote because they are not educated” he says as he holds up pamphlets of information on a variety of topics similar to what he is suggesting be handed out to educate individuals on the importance of voting.

I feel my blood begin to boil as this triggered my sensitivity to judgment with his insinuation that people are just ignorant and simple education will correct ones behavior.  This guy doesn’t know what he is talking about I think to myself.  With this line of thinking, we just need to tell smokers it is bad for them or addicts the dangers of their addiction I sarcastically consider as I shake my head in frustration at his understanding.  Education counts for little as the war on drugs isn’t working and seems more like a war on drug addicts than anything else.

Luckily, I spoke after this gentlemen and while his education theory may be true for a small portion of voters in my city, I completely disagreed with why people don’t vote.

The quality of our actions depends on our motivation: so what motivates ones action?

In 1943, a psychologist, Abraham Maslow introduced the theory of ‘hierarchy of needs’ suggesting our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs. This concept states that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.

Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating ones behavior.

There are 5 levels in Maslow’s need theory:
1) Physiological needs-these are the most basic needs that are vital to survival such as need for water, air, food and sleep.
2) Security needs-these include the need for safety and security. These are important to maintain mental health however not as demanding as physiological needs.
3) Social needs-These include needs for belonging, love and affection. Maslow described these needs as less basic than Physiological and security. Relationships such as friendship, romantic attachment and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance as does involvement in social, community or religious groups.
4) Esteem needs-After the first three needs have been met, esteem becomes increasingly important. These needs reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.
5) Self-actualizing needs-This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These needs involve one’s self awareness and those concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested in fulfilling ones potential.
Physiological, security, social and esteem needs are Deficiency needs, meaning they arise due to deprivation and represented as the base of the pyramid.

Many of us live in the physiological needs becoming disengaged with life in the daily struggle to meet basic needs such as where the next meal might come from. A survival mode of sorts which doesn’t include politics or laws or thoughts beyond the day even, often leading to resentments and mental unwellness in the constant stress.
I have housing and no longer struggle to pay for food. I am grateful to not live in the stress anymore but am fully aware that I am involved in my community because I no longer live at the base of this pyramid.

Today I am heavily involved in several aspects of my community.  Being involved has satisfied my social need at Maslow’s level three pushing me higher on the pyramid to search for my own personal greatness. My community involvement has changed who I am, how I feel about myself and challenged what I thought I could do. We cannot tell someone to do something, we need to provide the circumstances that will motivate them to do it themselves. The same goes for the recovering addict or the non-voter. Why should one care?

To be listened to and feel heard is to feel valued and I believe that is the compassion piece which is the key to changing lives. Feeling valued motivated me to get involved and it built my self-worth and confidence breaking the emotional sentence poverty has had on my family.

To engage others, they need to feel wanted and needed. Valued as if they were family, because for many of us living in the base of the pyramid, community is the only real family we may ever have yet often do not feel we can reach out to that family either.


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