The Middle

Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination. ~William Longgood

If the Resistance has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t wait for someone to invite you to change the world. You just have to jump in with the knowledge and resources that you have.

And then you just have to keep going.

Take Teresa O’Donnell. A pediatric-nurse-turned-businesswoman, she co-owned a Houston software company that was trying to do more in the community. She was the team member charged with finding a way for her company to improve “community wellbeing.”

In her search for a good “community wellbeing” project, she read an article in the newspaper about highly educated refugees, like doctors and lawyers and engineers, that were having a really hard time getting jobs. She figured her company could help with mock interviews or resume review – so she reached out to the local refugee resettlement program.

The woman at the refugee resettlement office was thankful for Teresa’s interest, but said that the refugees having the most trouble were the undereducated refugees – the refugees that didn’t speak English and had no marketable job skills. Could she help them?

That wasn’t exactly in Teresa’s wheelhouse.

But, a while later she read another article (again in the newspaper) about community gardening – “Market” gardening. The article talked about how one acre of land could provide enough produce to make a living wage for farmers. She was intrigued.

She called the refugee office again. Were any of these refugees farmers?

Yes. In fact, they were all farmers.

And that’s how Plant-It-Forward was created. Using acres of land that were underutilized by various churches, a woman who knew nothing about either farming or refugees created an organization that provides a living wage and self-sufficiency to participating refugee farmers. It also provides local and fresh food to Houston citizens through farmers markets and CSAs.

But that’s just the beginning and the end of the story.

In the middle, it was really, really hard.

For ten months, Theresa agonized as leases went unsigned and farmers begged for land to work. She had put these farmers through trainings on organic farming; they had spent time and energy, and their families’ hopes were all tied up in this project that looked like it was faltering. Can you imagine the pressure and self doubt? Farmers whose lives had been upended were relying upon her vision and her dedication, and it looked like it might not happen. She was working really hard, but not seeing results. At least, nothing tangible. (Ahem. Does this sound familiar yet?)

She thought that she might have made a terrible mistake in believing that she could make a difference.

But you know what? She didn’t give up.

She persisted.

After almost a year of self-doubt, the obstacles eventually fell away and Plant-It-Forward moved ahead. But it wouldn’t have if she had given up in the middle – when it seemed like things weren’t going to go her way. And the result? Well, today Plant-It-Forward continues to thrive and grow. More importantly, it provides a living wage, great food, and a source of pride for its refugee farmers and community.

So, fellow Resisters. As you can tell, right now we’re in the middle. We’re months into the new administration, and although we’ve had a lot of success, sometimes it’s really hard to even pick up the phone to call Congress to let them know that we are paying attention.

But we have to.

Why? Because people are relying on us, just like people were relying on Teresa. Teresa may have seen the refugee farmers at Plant-It-Forward face-to-face, but make no mistake – there are faces behind each of the issues we call about. Our neighbors, our friends, our family, ourselves – we’re calling about fellow human beings. And sometimes the weight of that is too much to think about; other times it just feels hopeless.

But, through all of that, we have to keep going, keep calling, keep raising our voices in whatever way or shape or form speaks to us.

This is only the middle, friends.

It’s not the end.

So let’s get to work!


Tuesday: Use Resist Bot to Protect the ACA.

If you haven’t used it before, Resist Bot is pretty fantastic. In less than two minutes you can send a fax to your Senator – which is processed similarly to an e-mail. Personally I love to use it after-hours when my Senators’ offices are not open.

Take these three steps (that take less than 2 minutes – I promise!) to voice your opposition to the Senate health bill: First, Text RESIST to 50409. Second, provide your name and zip code so the bot can find your Senators. Third, tell the bot what you’d like to say in your fax. To make this easy, here’s some sample text for you to copy and paste and personalize:

It is undemocratic for legislation impacting one-sixth of the economy and millions of American lives to be drafted behind closed doors. But there’s no wonder it’s being debated in secret. The bill you’ll be asked to vote for is bad for women, for children, for seniors and for people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. It’s bad for rural hospitals and for schools.

When you chose to run for office, I doubt you thought you’d be asked to vote to endanger American lives so that other people could pay less in taxes. But that’s what you’re being asked to do.

Prove that you’re serious about protecting American lives, and vote no.

That’s it!

The bot will then ask if you have anything else to add and will let you see a preview. If you’re happy with your fax, hit send and wait for your confirmation. Voila!

Wednesday: Participate in National Call-In Day to Protect the ACA!

National Call-In Day was created to encourage all of us to call our Senators regarding the ACA repeal bill. You can go to this Facebook page to get more details.

I’m sure you’ve head from many, many folks that calling this week about the ACA is critical. But there’s an underreported potential impact of ACA repeal: depending upon what form it takes, the repeal may also reduce access to healthcare for refugees. Prior to the ACA, many refugees could only get eight months of coverage under the Refugee Medical Assistance program. With the ACA, refugees can get insurance through the Marketplace, have the same general insurance protections and benefits that the rest of us do (prohibiting lifetime caps, etc.), and may be eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what the Senate GOP bill says about refugee access to healthcare, since they’re drafting behind closed doors. But if they’re reducing access for U.S. citizens, I think it’s a fair assumption that they’ll do the same for refugees.

So, keep in mind that when we’re calling to protect the ACA, we’re also sticking up for refugees. Here’s a script for you to use:

Script: Hello, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote against the ACA repeal bill. What is the Senator’s position on the bill?

[If unsure or in support] It’s hard to know exactly what’s in it since it’s being drafted behind closed doors, but from reports it’s bad for women, for seniors, for children with special needs, for rural hospitals and for schools. It’s bad for people with pre-existing conditions and for people with disabilities. It’s basically bad for everyone. I don’t know why the Senator would be in favor of that kind of legislation. I expect him/her to vote to protect his/her constituents, and I’ll be watching closely. Thanks.

[If against] I’m so glad to hear it! Please let me and other constituents know how we can protect the ACA and support the Senator’s decision about this. I’ll make sure my friends and family know that you’re protecting us. Many thanks!

Thursday: In advance of June 20 (World Refugee Day), help the Stand With Refugees Campaign get 100,000 calls to Congress.

Can we make 100,000 calls to Congress to support refugees? I think so! Go here, fill out your information and you’ll be connected with your MOCs. You’ll be able to follow their prompts to state your support for refugees and robust refugee settlement/funding.

In the alternative, you can just give them a ring yourself, and say:

Hello, my name is ____ and I live in ____. I’m calling to ask that the [Congressman/woman / Senator] help make our country welcoming for refugees that are able to relocate to our country, and to support robust refugee resettlement and funding for refugees abroad. Thanks for your time.

Friday: Sign Jessica’s Petition

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy gave work permits to undocumented residents that arrived in the United States when they were children. As shown in this  great resource, DACA has had a significant positive economic impact both nationally and state-by-state (you can go to that link to see the impact on your very own state’s economy).

Even so, the new administration has started revoking some DACA recipients’ status, subjecting them to deportation.

One such person is Jessica Colotl, who until recently was a paralegal working at an Atlanta law firm, hoping to eventually attend law school. Now she’s basically a prisoner in her own home because she could be deported at any time to a country she hasn’t lived in since she was 11.

Jessica’s story, which she eloquently shares in this Politico piece, has been amplified by the ACLU and United We Dream. The ACLU is asking for petition signatures in support of Jessica.

So, please sign the petition to restore Jessica’s DACA  here.

And geez – there’s only 10,000 left to go – we can totally put this over the top!

That covers this week’s pep talk and list of actions. If you want one more quick action, send this pep talk to a friend or two!

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here!

A huge thank you to everyone who has written. I’m sorry I can’t respond to everyone, but know I really appreciate your words of encouragement.

And thank you, again, for being part of what makes this country amazing.


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