Our Personal Social Responsibility

By Joanne Silatei

February 29, 2024 at 12:00 AM

Illustration by Rakib Zaman Khan

Illustration by Rakib Zaman Khan

We hear a lot about corporate social responsibility. So much so an impressive 87% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that align with the issues they’re passionate about. Another 76% won’t purchase from brands that don’t align with their values. Although corporations have more purchasing power, how and where we spend our money is extremely powerful. Collectively, our social responsibility is more potent than any corporation.

Beyond our buying power, our capacity to serve within our family, friend group, and community can spark a powerful ripple effect of change. This ripple can expand far beyond what we’ll ever see or know.

Where Do We Begin?

What Is Personal Social Responsibility?

There are a variety of definitions, but it boils down to how everyday people positively contribute to family, community, and the environment. This sounds simple enough, but we live in a culture that often shames and engages in privileged power over those on the margins.

This might sound like a sentence that begins with:

·     “The homeless”

·     “The needy”

·     “Poor people”

Even if the sentiment of what’s said next is seemingly empathetic, there’s often an otherizing. Eliminating these phrases from your vocabulary goes beyond politically correct semantics. It shows dignity, respect, and a shared humanity.

So, consider replacing:

·     “Homeless” with “unhoused”

·     “The needy” with “vulnerable”

·     “Poor people” with “low-income”

Then, check yourself to ensure you’re not judging those you’re referring to. Pity and sympathy aren’t the same as empathy. 

It’s Not My Problem, So Why Should I Help?

While we may not admit it, when faced with the opportunity to get involved beyond posting on social media, we think:

·     It’s not my job.

·     It’s not my problem.

·     I’m not part of that community.

·     What have they ever done for me?

·     I support their efforts, but why should I get involved? 

This excerpt from a 1963 letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King while imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama, for “parading without a permit” is a friendly reminder that we’re all one:  

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

When and Why We’re Motivated to Help?

What’s additionally perplexing is that our culture prioritizes some vulnerable communities more than others. This often includes children, the elderly, and the disabled community. These communities must remain a high priority, but we must also recognize that we’re all one.

To activate meaningful change, we must consider when, why, and how we choose to help.

·     Without being asked, I have a neighbor who started shoveling snow for our elderly neighbor. He won’t accept anything other than “thank you”.

·     We rush to help neighbors we don’t engage with much after a natural disaster but may not think much about them otherwise.

·     Many of us bartered toilet paper, cleaning supplies, food, and other essentials during the early days of COVID-19. Now, we may not engage much with those same neighbors.

·     We’re often more willing to donate to a charity than give time or resources to those we know.

So, What Can We Do?

It feels overwhelming, but we can’t leave it to our elected officials and corporations. We must acknowledge our individual roles by engaging in personal social responsibility. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Start where you are, asking friends, family, acquaintances, and your community how you can help. 

Think back to when paying it forward was at its height. The trend spread like wildfire, inspiring random acts of kindness daily. We actively looked for ways to reach out, help, and connect. It felt amazing to receive an unexpected “forward” and even more amazing to give.

Would You Give a Stranger a Ride?

My dad grew up in a rural community along the Rift Valley in Kenya. At the time, most people didn’t have vehicles, so walking was a primary means of transportation. Sometimes, this meant walking long distances depending on the errand. As a close-knit community, if you were in a vehicle and saw someone walking, you stopped and gave them a ride. It wasn’t a discussion, and there was no second thought; it’s just what you did.

When he moved to the United States, my dad held on to this community mindset. While not as common today (and no longer legal along Washington State freeways), in the early 80s, it wasn’t uncommon to see hitchhikers. Almost every time he saw a hitchhiker, he stopped. He had to give them a ride if we were heading in their direction.

My American mom wasn’t the biggest fan of this habit for various reasons. But to my dad, the mindset was simple:

“We have a car, and they don’t. So, we give them a ride.”

How Can This Concept Shift Your Mindset?

I’ll admit, I’ve never picked up someone thumbing a ride. But my dad’s mindset of personal social responsibility stuck with me. In the smaller town I grew up in, I’d always stop when I saw someone I knew walking down the street.

I’d do the same after moving to Chicago. One standout was the utter shock after picking up an acquaintance standing at a bus stop. She kept saying, “I can’t believe you stopped. No one ever stops.”

Or the similar shock when I offered to carpool with a coworker who lived directly on my way to work. Carpooling allowed her to sleep in a bit more than taking the train, and we quickly transitioned from coworkers to friends!  

Would You Accept a Kind Gesture?

I’ve even been the recipient of a surprise ride. Once, when I was walking down the street in Chicago, a neighborhood shop owner stopped to give me a ride. I was only walking a few blocks, but the gesture was so kind that I accepted.

While on an extended vacation on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, I rented a place eight blocks up a mountain range. Like my dad, a neighbor would stop to give me a ride whenever I walked up or down the main road.

Before rideshares, I spent a fair amount of time in Oklahoma for work. The hotel I stayed at was about a mile from a shopping center. I enjoyed the walk to and from and often ate at a restaurant. Whenever I ventured down this main street, multiple cars would stop and offer me a ride. Southern hospitality at its best!

Who Would You Stop For?

Incorporating personal social responsibility into your routine certainly doesn’t have to involve giving a stranger a ride, but who would you stop for?

·     Someone you know casually at a bus stop.

·     A classmate or neighbor walking down the street?

·     Do you regularly use Uber Share over standard Uber?

·     Would you stop to help someone with a flat tire?

·     Would you give a stranger a “jump” if their car battery died?

In addition to rides, I'd like you to consider thoughtful ways to extend a kind gesture to those you know and those you meet along the way. If you haven’t yet, consider watching (or rewatching) Craigslist Joe for inspiration about how you can do more daily.


With all that’s awry in the world today, it may not feel like the little things you do make much of a difference—but the little things add up. Even more when we all pitch in!


Ecomilli, we're on a mission to transform the world into a greener and more socially just place. We believe that everyone has the power to make a difference, and we're here to help you do just that.

All Comments (0)
Sort By
Loading Comments ...
Related Articles

Popular Articles

No articles found.

No Infobites Found!

Share your ideas

with others

Developed By: Golden Info Systems Ltd.