The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. ~Alice Walker
A year from now you may wish you started today. ~Karen Lamb
I still remember where I was sitting.
It was a table close to the corner, right by the big front window. The sunlight was coming through just so, throwing a spotlight on the floor and warming my back.
It was a scarlet red time, right after the 2016 election. Everyday life was punctuated with emotions and fears so sharp they’d wake you up in the middle of the night, panicked at the nightmares to come once day broke. (Remember?)
But, on that particular day, we were distracting ourselves by eating brunch.
Someone should do something, I said to my husband, sipping on my coffee. There are so many people who are looking for something to do. There’s so much power there. We just need to direct it somehow.
Why don’t you do that? He replied.
That’s crazy. I laughed.
No, really. He looked up, a quite serious expression on his face. You know how to make a website. You’re a lawyer. You love to write. What’s stopping you?
I didn’t have an answer to that question, frankly.
And that, friend, is how Small Deeds came to be.
I immediately started thinking about what I’d call this project – and the quote from Peter Marshall “Small Deeds Done are better than great deeds planned” had always stuck with me. After all, small things that actually get done will always do more than a two-year strategy plan that’s workshopped and talked to death but never implemented.
I’ll call it Small Deeds Done, I said to my husband.
When we got home, I created the website. I set up an email list. And I wrote the first entry.
November 20, 2016.
The next day, November 21, I published the first list of actions. I started with carrots and sticks – suggestions of some folks to give kudos to, and some folks we should *ahem* encourage more forcefully. It was before Indivisible. Before organized calls-to-action were a regular thing. It was the wild west of advocacy, and it was pretty darn exciting if I do say so.
At first there was a lot of education. The branches of government, the two parts of Congress, how a bill becomes law. Helping people find their representatives, understand government structure and appreciate the power of the administrative state.
Through the last four years I’ve learned a lot, too.
Having SDD gave me an outlet – a way to help those around me and myself at the same time. I’ve always been a big believer in Action Therapy. If there’s something wrong in the world, give me something to do to make it better – and I’ll feel better. It makes me feel more in control of the uncontrollable, perhaps.
Then, as I saw people getting exhausted with the constant barrage of negative news, I realized there was just as great of a need for a pep talk each week as there was for actions. So I got to work doing what I could to provide a weekly reprieve from the negative – and a little dose of inspiration.
Each year, SDD has grown. For that I feel equal parts gratitude and disbelief. Because at the end of the day, I have all of you to thank for helping me get through the last four years. Without you, I’d have been floundering about trying to find a place to be useful.
You’ve given me quite a gift.
The next four years will also be challenging, but in different ways. The election we just had wasn’t everything we wanted – but it was what we needed. The imperfect electoral outcome means that we couldn’t all just pat ourselves on the back, take our toys and go home for naps.
It made it clear that the work is far from over.
It made it clear that you are still necessary. You are an essential part of how our country responds to the present moment.
We – our community – is an essential part of how our country responds to the present moment.
And one last thing to think about this week.
One woman in November 2016 finished eating her breakfast and decided to start a website to help channel people’s energy and direct it to do good. Four years later, because of that one decision, we’re thousands strong. And we – you – helped move the needle and change the course of our communities, our country, our history. Our lives.
What could you do in four years, if you just asked yourself: why not?
As my husband asked me nearly four years ago to the day: What’s stopping you?
Let’s get to work.
P.S. Happy Birthday!
Actions for the Week of November 17, 2020
Tuesday: Oh Georgia!
As you well know, the Georgia Senate runoffs will determine which party controls that all-important institution. I’d love nothing more than to see Mitch McConnell lose his majority leader title. Truly, it would be the best way to begin 2021.
We’ve all been looking for the best ways to help. Supporting Georgia-based organizations with your time and treasure is pretty critical here, because they know the ground there far better than we do.
With a H/T to Jessica Craven, I’m sharing a new Google form survey through America Votes Georgia, which, based on your answers to a few questions, pairs you with a grassroots organization working in GA. Brilliant, fabulous, and I’m super happy to share. Go HERE for the google survey.
Wednesday: Why not head to Washington!
If you’ve not already looked at and bookmarked the Biden/Harris transition website, you should do that pronto. They’ve listed their priorities, and update that site with regular news. It’s a good place to go for actual verifiable news.
Also: there are thousands of jobs (political appointments) that now need to be filled. And you are exactly the kind of person who needs to apply! From the Transition Website: In this moment, we must harness the passion, creativity, talent, and ingenuity of the American people to build back better and restore faith in our government. We are committed to building an Administration that looks like America and works for all Americans.
Go check it out, and consider applying. https://buildbackbetter.com/join-us/ And send to all of your policy wonk friends!
Thursday: Sign Up to Phonebank!
Phone banking is so important. And I know, it can be a long hard slog. But that’s why all of us need to pitch in a few hours to help out. Right now, the both Warnock and Ossoff campaigns in Georgia has phone bank shifts daily until the January 5 election. Sign up HERE for Warnock and HERE for Ossoff.
Friday: Safer At Home Thanksgiving Plans
We all know that having a traditional Thanksgiving with far flung families feasting elbow-to-elbow at the big dining room table is not going to fly this year.
What what else can you do? We’ve all heard about the Zoom/Virtual Thanksgiving, but here are some other ideas. Have some of your own? Put them in the comments! If we can crowdsource holiday joy I’m all in.
- Plan a shared experience. No matter the distance, you’ll feel close on the big day if you share the same rituals. Have your child come up with ideas for all five senses, and spread the word to everyone on the virtual guest list: For example, plan to light the same scent of candle or prepare the same fragrant dish, and create a shared playlist to use as background music.
- Create connection with meal prep. Thanksgiving meal may be the hardest time for your child to be apart from family members who aren’t in your quarantine group, like grandparents. So focus on the steps that come before eating, which are easier to bond over from a distance: Schedule calls for family members to help your child brainstorm the holiday menu and make a shopping list. Ask for a loved one’s favorite recipe, and video chat while you and your child test it out. (Bonus: These are great ways to get your child involved in the kitchen!)
- Send Thanksgiving care packages. Mail or drop off treats and supplies to help guests feel part of the fun. Since you can’t crowd around one table to split a pumpkin pie, maybe you and your child bake pumpkin muffins and drop them off on doorsteps, or make matching centerpieces for everyone to display on their holiday tables.
- During your Thanksgiving video chat, have your child host “opening” and “closing ceremonies.” Your child might want to kick things off with a song or prayer, and wrap up with a round of jokes or the latest Tik Tok dance. With old traditions on hold, the possibilities are endless.
- Try a new twist on a pot luck. Since you’ll all be dining as separate households, a traditional pot luck is out the window. But you can still ask every person to “bring” something to contribute – like a brief toast or favorite family photo to share virtually.
- Try a gratitude bowl. Have all the households in your extended family start this process a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Each day, each person writes something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper and adds it to their household bowl. During your Thanksgiving virtual event, take turns reading aloud.
- Keep the fun going! Once your Thanksgiving Day “program” has ended, you can prop your device up somewhere central with video chat for any loved ones who want to stay connected, or have your child send occasional text updates on the day’s events – from the big turkey reveal to lounging in comfy clothes while you digest.
- Make Thanksgiving resolutions. This can be part of your virtual get-together, or just a quiet conversation with your child to close out the day. What would your child like to learn, try, or do more of by Thanksgiving next year? This is a nice way to remind kids (and all of us) that we all have a lot to look forward to on the other side of this pandemic.
From Cafe Mom:
- Thanksgiving Care Packages! A good way to show love from a distance (and to support the Post Office!) is to send a Thanksgiving care package to family far away. A box with festive Thanksgiving napkins, some fresh spices, and maybe a sweet treat or two will make anyone feel loved and remembered this year. Picking out items and boxing them up will be a fun activity for little kids and can help them feel connected to the cousins they can’t see.
- Family Movie Binge: One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is having a nice long weekend, so make the most of staying home by planning for a family movie binge! Just choose a series with multiple movies (maybe Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Toy Story?) and settle in for a weekend of popcorn, movies, and leftover pie!
- Write About It: One of the special things about Thanksgiving is building family memories and sharing family stories. One way to do that from a distance is to have everyone write the story of what they did this year and to collect those letters to be shared at the next Thanksgiving when everyone is together. Creating a written family story is a powerful way to connect, even at a distance.
- Volunteer: Thanksgiving can be a great time to celebrate family, but it’s also an occasion to remember that we are all part of a community. Families staying home this Thanksgiving can explore ways to volunteer in their own community around the holiday. Some options could include volunteering with a food bank or doing some trail or park cleanup. A quick Google can help families find opportunities in their area.
- Family 5k: Families that love to start Thanksgiving with a 5K Turkey Trot can still get their miles in, even if the official race is cancelled. An unofficial 5K can even be fun for extended families separated this year — everyone can run where they are and the family can crown the winner virtually!
- Try New Thanksgiving Recipes! In some families, the Thanksgiving menu is passed down from generation to generation and is basically set in stone. Skip the pumpkin pie and do a pumpkin cheesecake instead? Not on grandma’s watch! But a smaller family Thanksgiving is the perfect time to be more adventurous and try some new Thanksgiving recipes without hurting anyone’s feelings.
- Go camping! Maybe this is the year to do the opposite of Thanksgiving. And if staying inside and making an elaborate meal is the quintessential Thanksgiving experience, heading outside for hot dogs and s’mores is the logical opposite. Yes, Thanksgiving camping is totally an option for families looking for a new way to celebrate.
- Game Night! Thanksgiving is the ultimate four-day weekend and, for families that don’t have anywhere else to be, it is the perfect time to start a game night! Or even better, a full weekend of games and puzzles. With all that free time not spent traveling, it may even be possible to finish a whole game of Monopoly!
And some really good practical tips from the New York Times:
- One way to enhance your viewing experience is by taking advantage of other electronics you may already have. Broadcasting your computer display on your TV can make your far-away family feel a little more life-size. Smart display devices, such as the Amazon Echo Show or the Google Nest Hub Max (two of our top-pick smart displays), offer another great way to stay connected. Their voice-activated commands are especially helpful if your hands are messy in the kitchen, for example, or if you want your kids to be able to initiate calls with loved ones easily.
- You could send something you’ve made yourself! If you’re like [the author], you’ve probably done your fair share of stress baking (and eating) during the pandemic. Shipping some of those calories to family and friends is a great way to show them you’re thinking of them, even if you can’t celebrate the holiday together. When it comes to cookies, it’s best to send bar or drop varieties that aren’t too delicate—other kinds will arrive in a pile of crumbs. It’s also a good idea to wrap the cookies individually in waxed paper or plastic wrap before putting them in tins or plastic containers (a slice of sandwich bread in the container will help prevent the cookies from drying out).
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!
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.