“Don’t spend your precious time asking ‘Why isn’t the world a better place?’ It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is ‘How can I make it better?’ To that there is an answer.” ~Leo Buscaglia
I just got back from New York City, where I spent a lovely long weekend with my family.
My seven-year-old was equally enchanted by “Lady liberty,” the subway, and an ice cream shop with 16 flavors and an eye-popping assortment of candy toppings.
But my husband suggested we walk the High Line during this trip. (He knows me well.)
If you’re not familiar with it, The High Line Park is a park one story above the city, on a remnant of what used to be an elevated rail line – much like the Chicago El. No longer in service, it’s been repurposed as a walkway lined with gorgeous plants and trees and outsider art.
Walking above the bustle of the city below, you can lose yourself along the maze of fountains and trees and sunflowers and rudbeckia in peace and (relative) quiet. And while tall buildings peek out here and there above the trees, and the path is busy with foot traffic, the bustle of Manhattan is just … beyond.
It’s a little oasis, really.
What a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon in the city.
As a gardener myself, I was tickled to see something that’s no longer useful being put to such thoughtful use. What used to be dead space is now full of so much life – bees and butterflies flying in from the concrete jungle to rest their fuzzy butts on flowers that nod with the wind.
And frankly, even if I stopped there, that’s message enough, isn’t it?
Finding a new purpose for something that seems finished … over … dead. Whether it’s a physical space or a mental one. Whether it’s an organization that feels lifeless, or a mission that’s lost its focus.
You can take the pieces of something that once worked … and fit them together in different ways that breathe new life into them. Maybe not to achieve the same goal that you had originally. But to do something fantastic, nonetheless.
So as we were walking along that’s what I was thinking about… Mulling over this radical adaptation, and how organizations and people can do something similar.
And then we came to a bottleneck in the path.
People were stopping, laughing, staring. Taking pictures. Turning back to take another look.
I assumed it was a famous art piece.
It was Donald.
Just to set the scene a bit, the High Line is at eye level to a number of buildings, including one particular apartment (or office?) across the street.
The person living there is not a fan of Donald Trump.
This person has hung a bunch of posters with Donald’s likeness alongside phrases like “Putin’s Useful Idiot,” at just the right height for High Line walkers to see. And above those posters on the roof stands a life-sized mannequin of Donald Trump in prisoner black and white.
That’s what everyone was looking at. Tourists from countries all over the world, stopping and laughing, taking pictures. And there were people like me who stopped, looked, smiled and carried on, happy to know that someone is out there standing up and speaking out in their own artistic way.
So simple, really.
And documented and seen by so many people every single day.
It made me remember – there are so many ways we can influence the world around us. Signs, bumper stickers, letters to the editor, marches, sit-ins, T-shirts, buttons … and even simple conversations.
This person had a prime location and an artistic flair.
But you have something, too.
Standing up doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t have to take all day. It’s the power of all of our simple, regular actions that will keep our country moving forward.
I’m so glad you’re still going strong.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of September 24, 2019
*Note: I am assuming that you are ALREADY calling your Congresspeople about Trump trying to force Ukraine into investigating Biden’s son. This is a bigly deal, folks, so make sure you give your Representative a call this week and let them know that you support an investigation and impeachment.
Okay, now that we’re on the same page there, here are some other great actions for your week!
Tuesday: Happy Voter Registration Day!
Today is National Voter Registration Day!
Two things today, please. First, check your registration to make sure nothing has changed. You can go to https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org to check, or your state’s Secretary of State. I just checked my own, and it took me less than one minute.
Next, if you are active on social media, please share the National Voter Registration Day website on your personal page. If you’re not active on social media, reach out to at least one friend and encourage him or her to check their registration and to register to vote.
Wednesday: Vote Forward!
Vote Forward (https://votefwd.org) is a great organization that is similar to Postcards to Voters in that it assigns addresses to volunteers who then send snail mail to prospective voters. But instead of postcards, Vote Forward uses form letters that you can personalize.
Because this week is Voter Registration week, it seems like a great week to highlight Vote Forward’s new project – registering voters! A few of their most recent projects are letters encouraging people to vote, and including voter registration materials in the mailer. So you’re not just encouraging people to register to vote – you’re making it easier for them to take action right away.
Voter registration projects are available for Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.
This is a great way to increase turnout and participation in democracy. Go check it out! https://votefwd.org/
Thursday & Friday: Climate Resources & A SDD Challenge!
Were you inspired by last week’s climate strikes? It’s hard not to be. So to follow up on the actions we took last week, here are a few ways to keep the ball rolling.
First, 350.org is going to host a webinar on October 3 that is going to help organize next steps in the climate movement. Head here to register: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_J2QiCiX2QMi_pcW_P4GamA
Second, 350.org has put together a really great handbook about climate advocacy. You can download it for free here: https://trainings.350.org/climate-resistance-handbook/
Third, and a very personal (to you) action: Go see what’s in your trash.
No, really. You’d be surprised at how much we all throw away without really thinking about it. So your climate challenge for the week is to take one day, and look at how much trash you have generated.
Then challenge yourself to generating 25% less trash going forward.
Why 25%? Because it’s significant, but do-able. I’ve done this myself and there are tons of benefits. (Not the least of which is there are fewer trips to the garbage can.) I started composting my coffee grounds again and have gotten much better about food waste. And I’ve made it easier for our family to recycle.
If each of us SDD-ers does this – reduces our trash production by just 1/4 per day – in ONE MONTH we will have kept 36 commercial-sized DUMPSTERS of trash out of landfills.
That’s a lot of trash! So give it a go this week, and let me know how it goes.
WHEW! GO, TEAM! SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
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!
P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.
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. Don’t you forget it.