Looking inward to re-calibrate personal ambitions is an inevitable part of the holiday season. “New Year Resolutions”—headlines scream, talk show hosts discuss, and school-age children bring lists that need to be filled out. My lists in years past have been filled with items too mundane to merit discussion.

Even as more than half the country looks forward to an unexpected future, it is indeed time for all citizens to give the new President-elect a chance to govern. This election served to remind us that what happens in Washington can and will have a bearing on all Americans. It is incumbent on each citizen to be ever vigilant about the new changes. This can be done best  by having New Year resolutions that include “we” goals along with “my” goals.

Once the new President assumes power, Senate hearings will be held for appointees to lead various federal departments. Examining the backgrounds of the professionals who are nominated for key posts will be an important task. Once you know how you want your representative in Congress to vote on these appointments, reaching out via a phone call to the local office is the most effective way to voice your opinion. Congressional staffers routinely ignore posts made on social media sites of representatives.

I have called my Congressional representative twice before on important legislative issues and the staffer took down my contact information. I also received an email after the Congressional vote, informing me that my representative voted to support my position.

Beyond this, however, where we can make an immediate and tangible difference is letting our voice be heard within our local communities.  Consider attending your city’s School Board meetings, city council meetings, and planning commission meetings. If excessive development is causing traffic jams in your neighborhood, you cannot simply sit back and expect more active city residents to pick up the cudgel for you.  Become that active city resident.

The list of issues where one can make a difference is long, giving us the choice to pursue issues close to one’s heart. Childhood poverty, educational inequality, homelessness, domestic violence, gay rights—this is just a short list of several macro-issues facing our communities.

As Indian-Americans we receive high marks for keeping Indian traditions alive.  Indian Independence Day celebrations in local parks, cricket matches in community playgrounds, language classes being taken for high-school credit through non-profits —the list is long and each item on that list needs to be lauded for the volunteerism involved.  By giving time to these causes, we send clear signals to our children about the Indian values that we hold dear.

When it comes to “American” traditions, our achievements do not hold up so well. We pay taxes, organize Super Bowl parties, and put up Christmas trees. What of the volunteerism needed within our communities? Should we not spend time volunteering through organizations that benefit “all” Americans?

City police departments, libraries, homeless shelters and food banks need help. In fact, non-profits often need help managing technological resources, a task that many of you will be qualified to do.  A friend once told me that conversations  at the food bank where she volunteered had completely changed how she looked at grocery store prices.

As Winston Churchill put it, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Being visible in the community is an important step forward.  Community leaders, teachers, police personnel and non-profit leaders should feel that we, as Indian-Americans, not only make use of the services provided to us, but that we also actively provide services through the donation of time, a commodity more valuable than money.

As I said earlier, the question is— “What can you do outside of “you?” The answer lies with you, our readers.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a multifaceted artist - a dancer, writer, storyteller, and educator. She founded the Sankalpa School of dance, where she trains the next generation of committed dancers to pursue...