For most people Halloween conjures up images of ghosts, monsters, and too much candy. For me, I’m taken back to a time I was growing my activist wings – even though I didn’t know it at the time.

When I was nine, I petitioned my own city council. I could lie and say in the third grade I was already focusing on deep social issues, but I won’t. My City Council was changing the local treat-or-treat hours from 6:00-8:00pm to 2:00-4:00pm, citing safety concerns. I was upset. I always looked forward to Halloween, and I saw this change as a direct attack on the one night of the year when kids get to dress up, knock on doors and eat as much candy as they want.

I was lucky enough to have parents that taught my sister and me to solve problems rather than simply be upset but resigned to the situation. So my sister, a neighbor, and I decided to create a petition to urge City Council to keep evening trick-or-treat hours. I don’t think I was fully aware that the First Amendment protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” but I was living that value in real time.

For weeks we would get home from school and knock on doors across the neighborhood asking folks to sign our petition. We would take petitions with us when we went to dinner with our parents or visited a friend’s house. Every Friday night, we would walk the stands at the local high school football game gathering signatures. We ended up collecting over 375 signatures.

We also held our own protest by picketing on the public sidewalks across from local council members’ homes with signs that read “2-4 is a bore”. Ultimately I ending up speaking at the local council meeting. “Glow in the dark stuff won’t glow, and scary costumes won’t have the same effect. Halloween won’t be fun at all. Didn’t you have fun evening trick or treating when you were young?

Unfortunately, we did not change the hearts and minds of our council members that day; however, we staged our own counter-trick-or-treat which saw hundreds of kids through the evening. The very next year, trick-or-treat went back to 6:00-8:00pm. Justice may have been delayed, but we were victorious.

This is a silly story, but it’s a time I look back on fondly. Everyone has talents and skills.  Being involved allows you to use your skills to make a positive difference and to further develop your own skills.  Plus, our First Amendment rights are the foundation of a vibrant democracy, and without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither away.

There are many ways to get involved, to develop a voice on issues that concern you, and to make a difference in the world. Pick an issue, identify the stake holders, and build relationships. Then commit to action. For example, you can:

  • Get involved with a non-profit organization tackling an area you want to learn more about;
  • Write letters to the editor or send letters to your elected officials;
  • Attend local city council meetings or even just pose questions/ comments on Twitter;
  • Testify in the Ohio General Assembly;
  • Start a petition!

The list goes on.

Remember, a dedicated group, no matter how small, has the power to push for real change in their community. We all need to be active in our communities to help make them a better place. Together, we can make a difference.