Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle. ~Deepak Chopra

I’ve been doing a lot of puzzles lately.

There’s something soothing about them. Maybe it’s the almost meditative search for the right piece. Or the constant, quiet, gentle sorting. Or the satisfaction when the pieces click together just so.

In any case, after a nearly four-year hiatus (due to one of our cats being especially fond of stealing and gnawing on puzzle pieces) I’m glad that I’ve taken up puzzles again.

It’s a good thing I rediscovered them, because working on a puzzle is especially soothing while watching some of the insane local council meetings that feature our homegrown anti-mask crowd. It’s easier to hear someone barking about how masks suffocate children (they do not) and how vaccines are bioweapons (they are not) when you are searching for the missing piece of an ancient oak tree, or a cottage roof, or a spectacular red poppy. It takes the edge off.

But as I was working on my most recent (pretty difficult) puzzle, I started to think in a more existential sense about the activity. About how when I begin to tackle each new segment of the puzzle it appears impossible … until I find the first two pieces that match.

Then finding the third, and fourth are far simpler. Suddenly that whole area is finished.

It really just takes time, persistence, a lot of trial and error, and more than a little luck.

And, as I was piecing together a bramble of blackberries, I realized that this constant tackling of the seemingly impossible reminds me of the last four or five years. How everything we’ve tried (and often accomplished) has appeared impossible at first glance. Both to us, and to passersby. But, piece by piece it’s come together – albeit slowly, and not without many mistakes.

There’s something else, too.

It’s especially hard to see the impact of each individual piece as you’re putting it in place. Of course, together with its neighbors, that piece begins to form an image. But it’s only at the end, when you’re finished putting all the pieces in place, that you can really appreciate the beauty of the collective.

I see a lot of parallels to the pro-democracy movement that took off after the 2016 election – and that has pieced itself together over the last five years. The trial and error, the slow progress, the steady building, the satisfaction of the individual images we’re creating within the community, and the hint of what the larger picture might look like.

It’s certainly not time yet to stand back and admire our work as finished.

But I do like the progress we’ve made.

Piece by piece.

So let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of August 31, 2021

Tuesday: How to Help Ida’s Victims

The images of Ida’s aftermath are as heartbreaking as the stories are harrowing. If you are moved to help the people who have been impacted, here are some good options that are local to Louisiana (for a broader list, go here).

The Second Harvest Food Bank serves South Louisiana. It has prepared 3,500+ food boxes and bottled water. Donations of bottled water and cleaning supplies are welcome. Volunteers can apply to help, but donating money is the most efficient way to assist.

Culture Aid NOLA has set up at the Howlin’ Wolf nightclub in New Orleans and is using thawing food from the freezers of restaurants to cook meals to distribute to people in need. The group has a donations page. It needs volunteers, trucks and takeaway containers.

AirLink is a nonprofit humanitarian flight organization that ships aid, emergency workers and medical personnel to communities in crisis. It has joined Operation BBQ Relief to supply equipment, cooks and volunteers to prepare meals for people affected by the storm. Donations are welcome.

SBP, originally known as the St. Bernard Project, was founded in 2006 by a couple in St. Bernard Parish who were frustrated by the slow response after Hurricane Katrina. Its Hurricane Ida plan will pay for supplies for home rebuilding and protective equipment for team members; it needs donations.

Cajun Navy Relief is a volunteer disaster response team that has provided relief and rescue services during more than a dozen of Louisiana’s floods, hurricanes and tropical storms. It is accepting donations.

Rebuilding Together New Orleans uses volunteer labor to repair homes, accepts donations to help with its work. The organization has also created an online wish list, and a hotline number: 844-965-1386.

Bayou Community Foundation works with local partners in Terrebonne Parish, Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle in coastal southeast Louisiana. It has set up an Ida relief fund.

Wednesday: Words That Win + Share Rental Resources

Today, join Words that Win for a 75-minute webinar introducing the basics of strategic messaging, using cutting-edge, progressive messaging frameworks. Get the tools you need to counter dog-whistle politics and disinformation, and learn how to advocate for what we want and need for a better tomorrow. Sign up here: https://www.mobilize.us/wordsthatwin/event/364400/

Second, the Supreme Court’s decision last week invalidating the extension of the eviction moratorium (which had been extended to October 3) means that time is running out for a lot of people. This week, please share with your network some available resources:

Find state and local partners providing rental assistance at: https://nlihc.org/rental-assistance

Learn more about what the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the eviction moratorium does here: https://evictionlab.org/questions/

Find Community Resources with this map from Just Shelter.

Thursday: Join a Zoom to Learn to Vote Triple!

[HT Chop Wood Carry Water and Robert Hubbell]

On September 2nd at 4:00 PM Pacific/7:00 PM Eastern there’s a customized training on a technique called “Vote Tripling” led by an organization called VoteTripling. This is a relatively new campaign tactic that focuses on the power of personal connections to motivate turnout. It’s based on the premise that people are more likely to vote if a friend asks them to do so. It works really well – and is something all of us should be learning more about. It’s also something we need to focus on in the short term, as the California recall goes into high gear.

To register for the Zoom meeting, click on this link: Focus for Democracy – Stop the Recall.

Friday: Tell the CDC To Start Tracking Better Data

It’s so important for us to have the best possible picture of the infections that Delta (or any other variant) is causing. That’s especially true for any so-called breakthrough infections, where a fully vaccinated person still has a detectible or acutely symptomatic case. However, the CDC is not tracking any breakthrough cases that do not result in hospitalization.

That’s insanity.

We are seeing a number of long-term symptoms/health complications developing in a-symptomatic and so called “mild” cases. While I understood tracking acute cases in the beginning of the pandemic, we’re at the point where we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Just because someone has not been hospitalized does not mean they are coming out of COVID unscathed. Here’s what you can do about it:

Per the Union of Concerned Scientists: Despite the Delta variant circulating in other countries for months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many Americans were caught off guard by how contagious the new viral strain is, even for fully vaccinated people. The CDC failed to track the growing risks of transmission in the United States: in May, the agency stopped collecting data on breakthrough infections that don’t result in hospitalization, blinding us to the full implications of the Delta variant. The CDC’s continued failure to collect this data continues to put people at risk.

To protect public health, the main thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated. However, we also need to collect essential data on COVID-19 cases and transmission and respond quickly to new developments with smart evidence-based policies.

Write a letter now to tell the CDC to do a better job of collecting data on the virus, staying on top of new developments, and aligning guidelines with the latest information.

The Union of Concerned Scientists makes it super easy for you. Just head over to this link to fill out the form letter.


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.

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