10/25/2013 09:08 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Birth, Life, Death Reminds Me Why It's Time for Some Personal Rebooting

There's nothing like a little birth, life and death close to you to make you introspective.

I've been experiencing it all lately, so bear with me, please while I indulge one of those introspective moods.

In the past few weeks, we had a new great nephew join our family, the day after my own birthday. And last week, we had a new great niece join us. She shares the birthday of my mom, who died a year ago, just a few weeks after her birthday, on Election Day no less.

Last fall, I told my mom I was worried about Illinois. I told her I was going to take a leap of faith, leave my beloved Daily Herald and try to do something about it. The old way of writing stories and editorials that ran in print and online just wasn't enough anymore.

So I joined Reboot Illinois. Here, we're sharing facts and opinions and infographics and lists and cartoons. We're using the networking power of social media and email and digital everything. We're prompting conversations on social media. Getting people talking to each other and to us and we're listening. And then we take it a step farther. We try to get Illinoisans activated and active again in our state government and politics.

It's ours, after all. We own it. The politicians work for us. And we need to start demanding better.

If we can persuade enough Illinoisans to join us, we can be as powerful as any lobbyist, as we should be. We're writing and reporting and talking and listening and connecting people to their politicians with our Sound Off tool. It's our aim to power up the people and connect them to their Springfield politicians.

I don't know how much of all that my mom followed as she neared the end of her days here. But she smiled at me and told me I seemed happy and excited.

I hope she could feel my passion and knows how much I care. I care about knowing that I tried to make things better for all those nieces and nephews I love and for all those baby great nephews and nieces I love and can't wait to rock in my arms again.

In one way or another, isn't that what we all want? To make a difference? To make things better for someone or ones?

Of course, I'm biased, but I think if we all took some simple steps in Illinois, we could make this a better home for us all.

I remember when I was a kid, a couple times a year, the precinct captain would come calling and mom would give him a few minutes of her time and listen to what he had to say. I'm fairly certain she didn't always agree with it, but she listened. Every day we all shared the newspaper at breakfast. And at dinner, we ate, talked about the day's family activities and what was going on in the world.

We got our information. We talked. Hopefully, we listened. And I always knew mom would go vote, usually at a polling place set up in my Chicago Public grade school.

Last week, we had the terrific opportunity to go talk to people about Reboot Illinois and Sound Off at a Chicago Ideas Week event titled "Politics: The State of the Union."

Of course, many of the speakers talked about the mess in Washington, the mess that rigged, politicized districts make and more. They talked about how those of us who work in media contribute to the problem by always focusing on the controversy, on who's winning and who's losing and not always on solutions.

I've long been concerned about that and have worked to try to find a better balance.

Amy Walter, the national editor of Cook Political Report, was among those who also talked about the polarized nation we've become because we tend to only read and listen to things and hear from people who agree with our own views.

And even worse, too many of us have checked out. We complain, but we don't read and we don't vote.

If we expect better, we have to take ownership and action. We have to read and think and vote. In the past two Illinois primaries, only 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. General election turnout is better, 50 and 70 percent in the presidential election year.

But in many communities and regions of this state, the real competition is in the primary. More of us need to vote in those, period.

As Amy Walter said last week, "If we want a government of the majority, then a majority needs to start showing up to vote."

I wholeheartedly agree. And I'm going to do that and more for my mom and for all the new babies in my world. What about you? Surely you have a someone or some ones too? Join me, won't you? Let's do it for ourselves now, for the ones who held us close and taught us then and for all those little babies who gurgle a whisper of future promise in our ears.