Many things define a generation. What happens to us, around us. The culture we’re immersed in, the technology that shapes our norms and opportunities, the pulse of a society, the issues that divide and bind.

One of those issues binding us all right now is the shaky shape of the economy. The news is unavoidable. The constant ups and downs in the market has everyone from wall street to main street panicked.

It’s a time of incredible uncertainty, to be sure. A time that will mark our generation. But with that, it’s important to realize that it’s also a time of incredible opportunity.

That’s because it’s more than simply what happens passively to a generation that defines it. The actions we chose, the choices we make, set the course to define the landscape of the future.

That’s where social justice comes in. Because the facts are these: when it comes down to it, in tough times, the easy choice (the one that to be honest, most people will make) is the course of self-preservation. When money gets tight, giving gets tighter, too. It’s a trend many organizations are already bracing for.

But here’s why the issue becomes so much more pronounced: in times like these, there is also an increase in the physical needs in the world around us.

What Can We Do?
Today, I’m joining literally thousands of other voices around the world to talk about the issue of poverty, this year’s Blog Action Day theme. As I’ve been thinking this week about what I have to say on the issue, I couldn’t help but see the very real problems that the issue of poverty face in this day, in this country. Not only are more and more people in need, from our own country, from across the globe, but resources seem to be increasingly scarce.

On a personal level, money is getting tight at higher and higher income levels. It’s a tough subject in a consumeristic society, one so driven by consumption and spending. Of course, the solution to solving poverty is not simply a matter of funding. But it’s a critically important element.

A Matter of Discipline
When it comes to making an impact on poverty at the personal level, it’s critical to realize that it takes a level of commitment. And that commitment requires a level of discipline. For so many in our world, the most immediate way to effect change is through financial support of worthy organizations. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. I support some myself. There are truly so many great organizations out there helping solve the issue, one person, one group at a time.

So often, I think that when it comes down to it, one of the most practical way we can make a difference to end poverty is to lead more conscientious lives ourselves. Leading with an attitude of humility and thankfulness for all we really have. Because we truly have a lot. For example, did you know that those making the median household income in the U.S., are in the richest 2% of the world?

So now, I could post all kinds of links to worthy organizations you could support, because that knowledge is supposed to make you feel guilty enough to want to give. But chances are, you’ve already heard the pitches, know the names of the organizations, because ending poverty is not simply a matter of knowing there are ways you can make a difference. Any informed citizen knows that.

What it’s really a matter of, especially in these uncertain economic times, especially to a generation just shaping our way in the world, is personal discipline.

Do you have what it takes to make impacting a cause worth it enough to you to change the way you think, starting with the way you spend, the way you give? If so, my suggestions are simple:

1- Work hard.
2- Spend less than you make.
3-Invest the rest wisely
– and not just in the markets. Invest in organizations that will do good things with your money. Giving cheerfully even if you have little to give has a mysterious way of providing perspective and joy, two things not to be underestimated in times like these.

If you think these ideas sound old fashioned, they are. They’re how my great-grandmother made it through the Depression a widowed mother of three girls. And they still work today, though they may be harder than ever.

That’s why on this Blog Action Day, I’m not asking you to give a couple of stray bucks to a specific charity. Instead, what I suggest may be a radical change at a critical time.

I’m asking you to join a narrative of change, of social justice, that our generation is longing for. Start with the way you think about your money and where you put it. Start there because it’s often almost impossible to do. And then see what happens. Because to create real, dynamic change, you’ve got to get invested.

Creating the social justice that this generation knows is needed isn’t something that can wait until the economy improves.

It’s a real call, a call to action, not soon, not later, but now.