In times of turmoil, sometimes there’s a voice in your head that says things like:
Things will never get better. Things will never change. Things will always stay the same.
You will never get better. You will never change. You will always stay the same.
You can’t listen to that voice. I should know.
I have played basketball at every level, but I wasn’t born great. I had to work at it. There were several times in my life when a coach — such as Paul Silas in Charlotte — motivated me to do something. If he said I needed to work on my jump shot or my crossover to get better, I wasn’t going to ignore him, I was going to get to work. Athletes who want to be the best in their sports would never just give up and assume things would get better on their own. They would get to the gym earlier, find a new coach, try a different way of training — they would look for the answers to make things better. When I was a rookie on the Hornets, Coach Silas reminded me of this when I was fighting for a starting spot. He wasn’t just going to give it to me no matter how frustrated I got. He was going to make me earn it. Through hard work and an open mind, I did.
I ask myself, however, why is it so hard to adopt this attitude to making decisions that affect our country and its policies?
Trust me when I say that I was one of those people who thought that my vote didn’t matter. When I was six or seven, I was in South Central L.A. at my grandmother’s house. It was around election time, and I remember asking my grandmother, “Why do you vote? Why do you take voting so seriously?”
“Many people who came before us fought and died for our right to vote,” she told me. “This is our voice. This is what we fought for. If you have something to complain about, this is your opportunity to make your voice heard.”
At this time in our country, it’s easy to feel like things haven’t been working for us. But the solution is not to just say, I won’t do anything about it. The solution is to take what we know about improving — whether it be in sports, or in your life — and apply it to our problems.
When you vote, you are making a choice. You are letting those in power know you care. You’re letting your representatives know that they should pay attention to issues that matter to you, whether it be mass incarceration, immigration, college affordability or jobs. What are the issues that matter to you?
Now’s the time to stand for them.
What’s the easiest way to take action? Vote.
But that is just one step. We need to get all of our contemporaries, teammates, colleagues and coworkers engaged in the process as well. It isn’t cool to sit on the sidelines. It isn’t cool to just throw in the towel. If I had just complained about my situation in Charlotte as a young player in the NBA, I might never have gotten off the bench. Would you let someone else do your job on the court? Of course not. Don’t put this on someone else’s shoulders.
So I am asking you to not sit this election out. Don’t wait for your teammate to do it for you. Don’t wait for your coach to do it for you. Don’t wait for a stranger to do it for you. They may not know what keeps you up at night, or what issues you care about. You need to do it for yourself and your people.
The deadline to register in California is Oct. 24.
You can do something to change the story.
Things can get better. Things will change. Things do not have to stay the same.