The National Week of Action: From simple blog post to national movement


Etan Blass

Last April, as America’s National Day of Prayer approached, many of the millions of Americans who do not pray wondered where they would fit in. Then one day, in a post called “Don’t Just Pray – Choose to ACT!!” American Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom argued that the humanist alternative to prayer is action, and that we should schedule a day in our communities when we all take action in some way to improve the lives of others.

This message really struck me. So often, when we hear that a family member is sick, or that a neighbor lost his job, or that innocent children are dying of malnutrition in Africa, our instinctive first response is: “I will pray for them.” But here Adam was arguing that, if we truly care and truly want to help those in need, “I will pray for you” cannot be our first response. Our first instinct has to be to do something. Our first response has to be to take action.

I believe this view is one that essentially all Americans, religious and secular alike, intuitively hold. If my neighbor’s house is on fire, even if I believe in the power of prayer, my first response will not be to ask God for assistance.  I’m going to call the fire department and do all I possibly can to help my neighbors to safety, and then, only once I have done all I can in my power to take action, if I am the praying type, only then will I ask God to take it from there. And so action is non-denominational. The devoutly religious and avowed atheists alike agree not only that action is paramount but that it precedes any other response.  

For this reason, the idea of preceding the National Day of Prayer with a National Day of Action, with its ability to motivate and unite Americans from all parts of the faith continuum, really resonated with me. And so eventually I got up the courage to e-mail Adam and say, “Let’s really do this! Let’s make this as big as it should be!”

Once Adam and I began discussing when to hold the Day of Action, we realized it would be hard to find one day when everyone would be available to take action. And so at some point Adam suggested an even better idea: “How about we do a Week of Action?”  We’re hoping that having one week every year when we all make sure to take action in some way to improve the world can bear substantial fruit.

The real “big break” for the National Week of Action was when I contacted Foundation Beyond Belief. In order to take this “little idea that could” and ensure that it would become the big idea that really made a difference, involving FBB, with its Beyond Belief Network of volunteers, was just what we would need to take this initiative to the next level. FBB has been at the forefront of humanist-led charity and volunteering for several years, and I’m so grateful Brittany Shoots-Reinhard and her colleagues at FBB have taken the lead role and are working so hard to ensure the success of this event, so that we end up with as much positive action as possible.

Please join us in choosing to act sometime between April 24 and April 31, 2014, by taking a need in our communities, our country, or our planet and finding some way, large or small, to address it.

Looking for ideas of ways to take action? Check out our Week of Action website for ideas and events. You can also register an event, or share your plans for taking action on Facebook or Twitter.