Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. ~Mark Batterson
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’ ~Hunter S. Thompson
Last year, Ady Barkan was living the dream.
He was in his early 30s, but had already graduated from Yale law school, had created and spearheaded an extremely effective campaign – called Fed Up – that empowered activists to protest Federal Reserve policies that slow economic recovery for disadvantaged communities, had a loving wife and young son, and spent his free time running on the beach and hiking in the mountains.
Then in October 2016, he was diagnosed with ALS.
And suddenly, he was given a deadline.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fast moving, incurable degenerative neurological disease. Without a ventilator, ALS is terminal.
It would be understandable for someone in Ady’s position to retreat. To spend all of the time left with family, with loved ones, squeezing decades of moments into the remaining months.
But that’s not what he did.
Instead he went to Washington D.C. to oppose the GOP tax bill that will cause massive cuts to Medicaid – which will supply funding for the ventilator that he will ultimately need to survive. He lobbied Senator Susan Collins, held rallies and spread his story throughout the halls of Congress. He happened to be on the same airplane as Senator Jeff Flake, and used that opportunity to speak personally and passionately with Flake about the ramifications of GOP policy. The video of that interaction went viral, and suddenly he was thrust into the spotlight. And that’s where most of us first learned about Ady.
He changed the focus of the tax debate from a conversation about numbers to a conversation about morality. About what being a caring human being looks like. About how policy should be made, and who we need to look out for.
He brought a face and a voice to those who can no longer speak – and his impact will be felt for long after his deadline has passed.
As he said in an interview with the Huffington Post, “I can joke or say honestly that if I’m gonna die really young, I wanna go down swinging, in a blaze of glory . . . It’s funny and true and tragic and poignant all at the same time. . . .The hand I’ve been dealt is the shit of ALS . . . But I’ve also been dealt so many incredible cards, and I think the only thing I can do is play them to the best of my ability.”
Friend, we all do better when we have a deadline.
And when we can see that deadline looming closer, its tangibility is motivating.
Take the approach of 2018, for example. When December 31 became January 1, just one day passed. But I’m sure you felt the energy shift. Meetings have become more engaged. New activists are asking how they can help in the midterms. New candidates are filing. Just seeing the midterm “deadline” approaching has given us new momentum.
And that momentum is a welcome sight. We’ll use it well in the coming months.
We will use it to motivate the masses, to force ourselves to focus our message, to decide on our priorities – and to work hard to make our goals happen … by the deadline.
But know that we’re all dealing with a second deadline – the one that Ady Barkan sees on the horizon. And whether it’s a blessing or a curse, most of us can’t – and won’t – see our personal deadline looming. But don’t let its invisibility lull you into a sense of limitless time.
Take the lesson of Ady’s life and use your voice early and often. Know that it matters, it inspires, and it impacts more people than you expect. Decide on the message that your life should tell – and then ensure that message is weaved through every chapter and found on every page in the book of your life.
Then when the final period is rested at the end of the final sentence on the very last page of your story, your story will be full, and rich, and deep with what your life was all about.
It’s already an amazing one, I’m sure.
And this chapter is going to be one hell of a ride.
Tuesday: Get Your Craft on and Join Postcards to Voters
Are you someone who likes adult coloring books? Maybe you’re crafty? Or you like to draw? Or maybe you just like to be able to see the results of your work in a super awesome and tangible way? Then do I have a great project for you!
Tony the Democrat has been enabling activists across the country to write postcards to Democratic/Independent voters encouraging them to vote in upcoming special elections. It’s a fantastic idea! Not only does it help get out the vote, but it’s a tangible project – you can actually see the results of your efforts.
I started writing postcards this week, and it’s been a ridiculous amount of fun!
Join the rest of us that are writing postcards to fellow voters by going to the Postcards to Voters website.
Wednesday: Keep Up With Your State Legislature by Checking out Fast Democracy
I want to introduce you to a new resource: Fast Democracy.
Finally, a place to track bills, track issues, find legislators – for state legislatures! As we are heading into the new legislative session, the shenanigans of many GOP-led state legislatures are getting more attention. But navigating the state legislative websites, which are often not as user-friendly as we’d like, is time consuming and frustrating. Fast Democracy makes it a simple process.
It’s sure to be a great resource – so head over to their site, register as a user and start fiddling around with the features. I promise you’ll love it!
Thursday: *Sigh.* CHIP Needs Our Support Again.
CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program – a highly successful bipartisan program that provides health insurance to approximately 9 million children. CHIP funding expired at the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) and Congress has been unable to pass full funding for it since. At the end of December, they passed a stopgap measure to fund CHIP for a short period of time while they got their ducks in a row.
Although Congress thought they kicked the CHIP can down the road, it turns out they barely made it out of the driveway.
Rather than extending CHIP benefits until March, states will begin to run out of funding January 19. (Ten days from now.)
Time to pick up the telephone again and call our rep and Senators and let them know: if you have the budget to give corporations and billionaires a hefty tax cut, you can find money for children’s insurance.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m again disgusted that CHIP funding will soon expire – for some states as early as January 19. If Congress can find funding to give millionaires and billionaires a hefty tax cut, you can certainly find sufficient funds for CHIP – which has been a successful and bipartisan program. Doesn’t Senator/Congressman/woman ______ care about ensuring the children of our state retain their insurance?
Friday: Tell Your Congresscritters: Take the Dreamer Pledge
On January 19, Congress is expected to pass yet another continuing resolution to fund the government in the short term while they get their act together. (They’ve already filed continuing resolutions on December 8 and 21 – so they’re not strangers to this procedure.)
Democrats are standing firm with our Dreamers – and we’re demanding that any funding bill include protections for them.
Head over to www.Dreamerpledge.org, where you’ll find scripts that are specific to your state – including data like how many Dreamers live in your state and contribute to your economy. You can also see whether your Senators and Representative are “dream heroes” who have pledged to vote against any spending bill that doesn’t offer protections for Dreamers … or “dream killers” who have not.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.
If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and 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. Welcome, friend!
Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.