Lessons Learned through Our Unique, Collective Pain

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. ~Margaret Wheatley

Up until a few months ago, my mother would snort when I said that 2020 was going down as the most charged year in history.

You weren’t around for 1968, she’d say out of the side of her mouth.

True, true. But she hasn’t said that recently.

We’ve got ourselves a stress sandwich, folks. Worldwide pandemic? Check. Record unemployment? Check. Civil rights movement the likes of which we haven’t seen in 50 years? Check. Madman in the White House?

Double check.

The ways that we are all struggling are so unique, but so connecting. I know that my struggle is different from yours. But I find solidarity in this collective experience.

I know of no other time during my life that the whole world has been undergoing the same life-altering stressors at the same time.

It’s a terrible opportunity, isn’t it?

The choices we are having to make right now, as individuals and as a society, will do more to uncover the heart and soul of this nation than mere reflection. We’re being forced to put our money where our mouth is.

And in the process, we’re being forced to examine … everything.

Our beliefs, our culture, our communities, our government, our institutions – we are looking at those things through a very different lens right now.

Nothing is theoretical anymore. Everything is intimately experienced.

It’s awful, what we’re all going through.

But I believe that one the other side of this – and there is another side – we’ll springboard from this collective experience, and use what we’ve learned. We are discovering what we really, actually care about. We’re uncovering what we’ll truly fight for.

That’s a darn powerful agent of change. I wish we weren’t learning it in the present circumstances.

But I’ll take any silver lining.

Over the next months and years, as the sharp edges of this moment are ground down by time, let’s not lose sight of the lessons we’re paying so dearly to learn.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of July 7, 2020

Tuesday: Become a virtual town hall monitor

The Town Hall Project is gathering information on how elected officials are transitioning to virtual town halls. Have these events been accessible? Do constituents have fair opportunities to share their opinions in online settings? We need to hold officials accountable, particularly during times of crisis. This pandemic isn’t an excuse to hide from constituents!

The Town Hall Project needs your help in order to monitor the operations of local town halls. All you have to do is attend a virtual town hall and fill out a feedback form once it’s over. Find a town hall in your area using their town hall finder tool. This work helps the Town Hall Project determine who is actually listening to their constituents. Sign up to provide feedback here

Wednesday: Call your Senators about the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020

Representative Maxine Waters introduced the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 in late June. House Democrats quickly passed the bill and now we need the Senate to follow suit. The bill earmarks $100 billion to a fund for emergency rental assistance for Americans unemployed because of the pandemic. It also establishes a $75 billion relief package for homeowners. Representative Waters is working to prevent “an eviction and homelessness crisis like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.” The eviction and foreclosure moratorium from the CARES Act would also be extended through March of 2021 if this act passes. Call both of your Senators and ask them to support this bill in the Senate.

Thursday: Protect international students

On Monday, ICE posted revised student visa requirements for the fall 2020 semester. Student visas will not be issued to students whose universities transition to online-only instruction. ICE has authority over the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), not U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services as you might expect.

The new modifications to nonimmigrant student policies are punitive and exclusionary. For many international students, the option to take online classes in their home country is a non-option. Time zone differences, unreliable internet connection/access, and regionally blocked curricula websites are just a few of the barriers students could face completing online coursework in their home countries. For international students residing in the U.S. this summer, returning home to a country that has blocked travel from the United States may also prove difficult. The new rule states,  

“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Students with visas will have to attend face-to-face lectures during a health pandemic or leave the country. This rule is cruel and xenophobic.

What can you do? Contact your state attorney general’s office and ask them how they plan to protect international students this fall, and demand your AG make an action plan to protect the residency of international students in your state’s school system.  

Friday: Encouraging kids and neighbors to wear masks

Each day, the threat of a second wave of mass coronavirus infection seems to loom larger. We know wearing a mask limits the spread of the virus around communities. We MUST be vigilant with our mask wearing and social distancing. Let’s commit to doing our part. Here are two ways you can help those in your community wear and access masks.

For parents, getting children to wear masks can be difficult. I’ve found a resource from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about encouraging kids to wear masks. John Diedrich posted these tips: 

  1. Let them pick-out masks made from fabric that feature book, TV or movie characters they like.
  2. Have them watch videos on why and how to wear a mask that are aimed toward kids (see an example on the Dear Pandemic Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/dearpandemic/videos/280152349901209/)
  3. Set consistent rules for when and where masks need to be worn and stick to them.
  4. Model good mask-wearing behavior for your child.
  5. Offer praise and rewards for good mask compliance.
  6. Remember that masks are only recommended for children aged 2+ years.

Many community organizations are looking for mask donations. If you have any extra time and want to get crafty, sewing cloth masks for your community is a great way to support your neighbors. This website page has a directory of organizations filtered by state that need sewn masks. To get started making home-sewn masks, turn to YouTube where hundreds of creative people have made videos on how to make simple fabric face masks. 

WHEW! GO TEAM!

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.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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