I have been thinking quite a bit lately about how we got Pagans in the front and center in our community. When I mean front and center, I mean involved with many, many of the community aspects. We are your EMTs, your Fire Fighters, local political seats, school volunteers, etc., etc…
When I think to how we started. It really wasn’t all of a sudden boom explosion of us into the community. It started off with one becoming an EMT. Next thing you knew, our community was getting low on volunteer help in both the Fire Department and the Ambulance service. So, being that helping people is something we all liked to do, it was a no brainer for us to join the forces. It was a “see a need, fill a need” situation. The subject of our religion never came up to honest, at least not right away. We had no need to proclaim that we were Pagans. Why? At that point, what did a Pagan have to do with helping to save someone’s life or property?
Eventually, once a person spends enough time in a rig with another, topics of religion and politics come up. That is when I told my very Christian partner in the rig I was Pagan, there were a lot of questions, but never was I ever treated as if I was an outcast, like I was “evil”. In fact, the response from him was a question/statement…went kind of like this: “Well, you believe there IS a higher power, right? Well, then that is good.” And that was all that was said. Nothing more, nothing less, and I have not been treated any different, in fact, it seemed to me, sharing something personal like that made us closer. I feel as if we can trust each other that much more. Not that we didn’t trust each other, but sharing personal things for some reason makes people understand and “get you”.
I myself didn’t stop there. I grew up with parents that taught volunteer DNR Safety classes to kids and adults who needed it. Another group came up to me to help them teach Snowmobile Safety and just this year I added ATV Safety to my list of classes I teach. I was asked to help teach since I have no problem getting up in front of a bunch of people and talking. I started to bartend when I was a senior in high school, so I am not shy, and don’t get “stage fright” as one instructor put it when all eyes are on me. Again, never once did anyone question what my religious stance was, even though my pentagram is visible at all times, it didn’t matter. Parents don’t care, I am not preaching to their kids about honoring the God and Goddess or trying to convert them…I am telling them what they need to know when out riding by themselves or with friends, I am teaching 12 year olds how to administer basic first aid if needed, how to do pre-ride checks on their machine.
Political office positions we are just starting to get into. The local school board is where my sights are set. I am one of those crazy parents that believe that you should have a child actually in the district that you are on the board for (who’d a thunk it, right?) Another one of the local Pagans is running for village board next spring challenging our village president. We are not running in these spots because we want “Pagans to be there”, we are running because there is a need. Like my fellow Pagan running for the village board, he is upset at the way the current president is spending unnecessary funds on silly “projects” not because he is Pagan. He wants to cut the budget, not increase our already high taxes. Let me state this… I have gotten into deeper and more heated conversations about politics and more so… local politics than anything to do with my religion.
When I think of how we got to where we are, I think it can be summed up in the “see a need, fill a need” philosophy. We, as Pagans in our community saw the need to someone to step up and take on positions that nobody else wanted to or saw that someone in a public position lost sight of the “big picture” as in political boards. So we did it, we made ourselves public. I don’t see why telling someone what your religious stance has to do with being a part of that community. I think of the “separation of church and state”. What does my religion have to do with say teaching a class, voting on whether or not we add/subtract money from a budget, save a life or property? I feel that if it is your sole purpose to go out into a public to make sure people “know” there is a Pagan there, you are missing the whole point. It shouldn’t matter what your views are. That is self serving if you only want recognition.
If you want to truly help people and be a model member of society, go forth and do good. My advice, from just personal experience, do it. If the topic of “religion” comes up later, if you want to go there, go there, but I don’t really see the need to proclaim it. Another “from experience” view. If you are in the community view long enough, and have proven yourself as an asset, your religious views are not going to matter. In fact, you will probably get the same response I got from my co-worker…”You believe in something, good!” That will be the end of it, and the person’s stereotype of “Pagans” will be gone. If they heard anything “evil” about Pagans they will defend you…knowing that you are an asset to the community, a great person and debunk all of the stereotypes without you having to defend yourself.
In short, lose of fear of getting out there, and just do it! Let your actions speak for you; the rest will fall into place. If you want to start small, volunteer at your local library. If you have children, get involved in the PTA, reading programs. Do you have kids? Do they like the scouts? 4H? Help with those. Aging family member in a nursing home, hey, they take volunteers in their activities programs. Does your community throw a festival? Try to get on the volunteer board if they have one; depending on where you are, there are more than enough volunteer programs and organizations, find one that interests you, and go. Get out of the “comfort zone” of Pagan only groups and mingle… I think you will find that getting active in the community and getting the view of Pagans out there is easier than you think and what some make it. Good Luck, and have fun, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about anyhow?