After the 2016 election I met a fellow Citizen named Reid. I met him online, through some shared Facebook group filled with people who were, as I was, devastated by the election results. Reid seemed different. He didn’t just complain. He did stuff. He found a way to immediately channel his concern into action. He called me — a total stranger — after he read something I wrote and asked me to help. He held our 6-term Republican Congressman accountable. He asked for town hall meetings. He organized others to ask for them too. He got together with other groups in the district and together they made a coalition, which was really smart, since it accelerated the organization of so many people who were concerned but did not have an outlet to channel their energy into action.
When our Congressman refused to hold a town hall, Reid and his group invited a neighboring Congresswoman to a town hall in our district in June of 2017. She showed up. So did about 600 people. It was a wonderful session and I remember at that moment feeling an unfamiliar feeling… it was the first bit of hope I’d had in 7 months. People cared. They wanted to talk in a civil way about issues that mattered.
Prior to the 2018 election, Reid seemed to spend every waking hour knocking on doors and encouraging others to do the same. He had a full time job but he still did it, nights and weekends. He posted videos with tips, he invited people to come along with him and learn and he just kept showing up. I keep thinking that each of us has a Reid, someone who inspires us to take action, but most of all someone who was never involved so much in politics but just found things that mattered and started doing something about it.
Reid is the reason democracy works.
Yesterday morning, I went by Reid’s house to pick up packages to deliver to voters in a nearby town. These packages contained postcards, a set for each of the six people who’d raised their hands to write hundreds of postcards in an attempt to connect with neighbors and fellow Citizens to encourage them to vote. Each of their reasons for writing are different, yet together, they will make a difference and these six people will reach 1000 other people.
On top of reaching those 1000 people, these postcards — and the volunteerism of Stephanie, Bernadette, Mary, Allison, Michael and Karen — are so much more. They are not just inspiration, but they are the fuel in the tank I know I will personally need for the fight the looms large in the next 10 months. I put 71 miles on my car, going to Reid’s house, picking up the well-organized packets (and loving the fact that on his porch were sets of materials other people were picking up, all organized, labeled and made ready for the next stop).
It was a crisp and beautiful Sunday morning. I turned the 70’s on 7 on my radio, put the first address in the GPS (Reid, of course, had used routing software to organize the stops in the most efficient way), and off I went, singing at the top of my lungs, thinking what a good thing it was to help in this small way.
The time in the car was reflective, and fun, and energizing. Because it was Sunday morning there wasn’t traffic and I had no business calls to complete. I just drove, like road trips in my teenage years, and I listened to music and I drove through neighborhoods I had never seen before. I couldn’t bring myself to flip on the news. I didn’t want to hear one more way the Trumpists were damaging our country, endangering our sons and daughters or lying about something else for their own gain. No, this morning was about possibility and hope and the belief that if we all come together and work really hard, 2020 is FINALLY here. We can take this back, this precious endangered American experiment.
As the sun reflected off the hood of my car, I thought about the morning after the 2016 election when my friend Adam called me from London. He knew I was sad and scared and angry. He said in his perfect calm English accent, “it’s only a matter of days until the next election… worst case, it’s about 1,460… think of it… that’s no time at all.”
While every day of Trump has been brutal and endless and at the end of each one I cringe at the prospect of the next Trumpian day, Adam was right in a way. First we spent some time trying to connect with our Congressman to try to get him to stand up to Trump. He didn’t. We gave him so many chances. And when he failed every single time — and proudly claimed that his vote was the deciding one that passed the most irresponsible tax scam in my lifetime — we knew we needed a change. The 2018 primary seemed to be immediately upon us. As soon as that was done we had to gear up for the 2018 election. We did it in 2018. We delivered the House.
Flipping the IL 6th district felt amazing and I sat in tears as I watched Speaker Pelosi sworn in last January while the women wore white. And then last year for a minute I remember thinking that I could breathe again, that at least the House could start to hold the Trumpists accountable. 2019 turned out to be a year of exhaustion, heartbreak and tiny slivers of hope…. one step forward, two steps back. Every day it seemed McConnell shoved through yet another unqualified judge. But there too was Adam Schiif, calm, measured, careful… reminding us that no one is above the law and that this administration will be held accountable. Somehow, some way, some day. What he didn’t say each time was that when the “some day” comes is actually really up to us. Imagine. The President’s motivation for holding the most powerful office in the world is all because it’s the only strategy he can think of to say out of jail.
And so it was that 2020 loomed on the horizon. This is the year that puts fear in my head but hope in my heart. The time is now. There is not enough Adam Schiff to fight this without more help and it’s up to us to give it to him.
As I zoomed around Naperville delivering postcards yesterday, I let hope win. With all the madness Trump has injected into the world in the last few days I knew I was fooling myself, but just for a couple of hours I thought about only possibility.
It wasn’t just the sunshine or the pretty scenery or the music of my childhood. It was the power of my core belief about democracy that those six people — and Reid — manifested so powerfully…. that all of us can do… something.
I would not have figured out the routing software but Reid did. I would not have been in town long enough to organize a postcard party but Stephanie did. And so did Allison. And so did Michael and Bernadette and Karen and Mary. I would not have had the patience to accurately count out the materials in the packets. But someone at Indivisible did. What I could do was to write a thank you note or two, knock on a stranger’s door with a packet they were grateful to receive and smile at the bonds of democracy. I could hop in my car and leave my house for a couple of hours, singing at the top of my lungs (it was not lost on me that I was listening to American Top 40 from 1974, my personal soundtrack from a year where we were getting rid of another corrupt president).
Between now and November, we can — and must — all find and do our somethings. This morning I signed up to address envelopes for our local congressional campaign. I could even create my own shift so I picked a day in early February where I will go address envelopes until my hand feels like it’s falling off — I have nice penmanship on a good day and the flexibility of the shift times makes it easy.
They were also looking for people to paint the new campaign office this weekend and move some furniture in the following weekend. They have a call out for intern applications. The other day I wrote a (small) check. I agreed to host a summer intern at our home.
There are these and endless other ways to get involved.
I baked cookies for a campaign office and on occasion have dropped off a meal for volunteers. I wrote my perspective on issues and stories and published them, even without an audience — and some of them were picked up and published and people actually read them. I located a tent for volunteers to keep them somewhat dry when a autumn deluge hit on a critical day for canvassing. I was a poll watcher on election day and I helped get a few extra voting lines open. I’ve built websites for first-time candidates. I’ve driven candidates to events (and made sure there was lunch in the car). I was a #Demcast reporter in 2018 and I’ve watched and tried to support as Nick Knudsen and his group continue to build their innovative, informative and inspiring network of Citizens around the country.
None of these little tiny actions change the world. But when I add up mine with all of Reid’s and the hundreds of other people who work hard every day in our district, I know they make a difference. Each little something is part of bigger something, something called democracy.
We can all do our somethings.
If you don’t know how to get involved, contact me and I will help you. Or call your local Congressperson’s office to find out how to volunteer on their campaign. Or reach out to Indivisible, Run For Something, Vote For Vets, #Demcast or any other of the great organizations that are helping find and support candidates.
I love that each of us has been given the gift of our own somethings. Democracy needs these gifts, now more than ever.
My 2020 Resolution is to use my somethings for the good of this country, to elect people of character and integrity who care about this country more than they do themselves, people who will us their voice and gifts for good. Trump is not America. Never was, never will be. As 2020 unfolds, we can shape our America by our intention to take it back. For the good guys. And our kids.
Originally posted on Medium. Re-posted with permission.
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