I’m sure you’ve been called to service before. Someone says “it’s time to get involved,” or “give back to the community,” or “change your lifestyle to save the planet.” The earnest beckoning can produce cynicism in the most idealistic of us.

But this time it’s different.

It’s not just that we have a new President who is promising change (don’t they all?), President Obama is pledging to change things with us, not for us. His deliberate use of “we” versus “I” in speeches is meant to remind us that government can only do so much. If we don’t make some hard choices in our lives this change we all seem to want is going to be dead on arrival.

Please answer the call to service, but get off to a better start than I did. Responding to Obama’s request to make the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a national day of service I looked on the usaservice.org website for a service project in the Spokane area. Couldn’t find anything. Decided to donate blood instead. I donate often so I didn’t think much of being asked if I had travelled to Mexico in the last year. Why yes, I had. Turns out some swimming and mountain biking in the now Malaria-prone state of Nayarit cost me a blood donation. I’ll have to work a little harder for my change.

We all will. My biggest disappointment in the wake of 9/11 was that we, as US citizens, were not called upon to do anything to help the country other than shop more. I can do that. I love shopping. Damn—you should see this new touring bike I’ve been checkin’ out. But that’s not going to cut it this time. You can’t just buy that new bike. You’ve got to ride it to work too.

I think most people want President Obama to be successful, even those that didn’t vote for him. That success will be elusive unless we all look hard at our lives and take difficult steps to catalyze change. It’s got to be more than a blood donation. And it won’t be the same for everyone. Ask yourself, what are you going to do to make America more successful this year? That’s what I’m asking myself. I’m still working on the answer.

Jon Snyder, Editor-in-chief
editor@outtheremonthly.ziplinestaging.com

P.S. Two songs that should be in heavy rotation these days: Parliament’s “Chocolate City,” and Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper’s “I Hate Banks.” Can you feel me on this?