The Green Backpack, Tired Legs, and Why I Think You’re Doing A Great Job

It’s a bit like these two donkeys are walking along the bridge, and one of them doesn’t have anything on his back and the other one is covered with packages and bales and bundles. The first donkey says, “Jesus, that’s quite a load you got on.” And the second donkey says, “What load?” You get used to it. ~Stephen King

When I was in law school (mumble mumble years ago), I carried a green backpack.

I was sortof known for it, to be honest.

Every afternoon, I’d fill it up with every textbook I had, so I could study that night. Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, Torts, Criminal Law… every single one of them went into that forest green backpack with the black straps.

Now, law school textbooks are big books (or, at least, they were at the time), so fitting them all in was like playing a game of Jenga. I had a certain way I’d pack them in, or the zipper wouldn’t close.

Then I’d hoist that backpack up onto my shoulders, power myself up the staircase, and set off on the two mile walk to my off-campus parking space.

Later, I learned that my classmates joked that my overstuffed backpack made me look like a turtle. (They did not appreciate my dedication to studying.)

Obviously, carrying that much weight wasn’t especially easy. (For reference, I’m 5’4″.) In fact, I remember that the first few times I loaded up that backpack, my arms shook.

But by the end of the first semester, I didn’t even notice it.

Your legs get used to the weight. Your back settles in and gets comfortable with the pressure. Your arms strengthen. Throwing that backpack into the backseat starts to feel more like a good stretch than a struggle.

The whole process, the effort, the “workout” becomes not just easier – but in many ways, welcome.

But it is still an effort.

You know, I could have said to heck with it and left some of those books in my locker. The world would not have ended it I didn’t study Contracts and Property and Torts and Civ Pro every night.

But then I would have felt less prepared.

I accepted the extra weight on my shoulders because I wanted to be sure I was doing everything I could – in that moment – to succeed.

Last night, I remembered that backpack as I was thinking about the heavy weight that we’ve all been feeling over the last five years.

It’s a heavy backpack that we’ve all been carrying. You might have crammed more into yours than you thought possible. There have been plenty of times you could have cast it off your shoulders. I know your legs are tired.

You could have checked out, gone home, stopped listening, and stopped paying attention. Nobody would have blamed you.

That you didn’t – that you haven’t – is impressive stuff.

And although your legs have gotten used to the weight, and your back might have gotten used to the pressure, and your arms might have gotten stronger … it is still an effort.

I just wanted to acknowledge that. I wanted to acknowledge your strength, the power you’ve developed over the years … and the exhaustion you have earned.

I think it’s pretty disingenuous for anyone to expect you to charge on cheerfully and shrug off the reality that we’re going through one of the toughest times in American – and world – history. I think it can be deflating when folks expect constant, boundless energy and don’t appreciate how tired folks are. I also think it can be counterproductive to focus only on that fact.

So today, I just wanted to tell you a story about a very heavy green backpack, and how many years ago a young woman carried it every day so she’d feel the comfort that comes from knowing she was doing everything she could during a really stressful time.

I think you have a lot in common with her.

And, by the way, I think you’re doing a great job.

On that note … Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of October 5, 2021

Tuesday: Call Joe (H/T to Indivisible Sonoma County!)

I love this action from Indivisible Sonoma County, because it fully embraces the dire straits we’re in. Here’s the long and the short of it: We have legislation (the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act) that would protect voting rights. But both bills are languishing in the Senate. As Indivisible Sonoma County explains: “Neither Schumer nor Biden is fighting for their passage, nor are they willing to attack the filibuster, an archaic rule that gives Republicans a veto over everything. This has to stop. NOW. If our democracy fails, everything else will fail with it.”

So, let’s give the President a call. Show him that Americans understand what’s at stake, and we want action.

The White House phone number is 202-456-1111, Tues – Thurs, 11-3 EDT.
At all other times, write to the President:
(or better yet, use:

Script: Mr. President, we can’t “out-organize” voter suppression – not when the results of elections can be overturned on false pretexts. We must have legislation and we need your help to get the job done.

Please make getting the Freedom to Vote Act your top priority and do everything in your considerable power to unite Senate Democrats to pass the bill by any means possible, including by abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster.

Wednesday: Let’s Win In Virginia!

Believe it or not, we’re a month away from the Virginia elections! The VA elections are important in their own right, and are always seen as a bit of a barometer. It’s time to get “back in the saddle” for elections, and help Virginia state Democrats bring these races home.

A great organization, PostCards4Va, has a similar program to Postcards to Voters, but is VA-specific. (They also have some great craftivism ideas here: You need to sign up with them just like you do for other postcarding/writing organizations.

Do that here:

The send-by date for postcards with Postcards4Va is October 15, so don’t delay!

Writing postcards doesn’t float your boat? No problem – Jessica Craven at Chop Wood Carry Water has created a FABULOUS roundup of ways to help in the VA elections. Go here:

Thursday: Write Your Favorite Banned Author

Last week was Banned Books Week. With critical thinking and education under attack, there’s never been a better time to support those books and authors that get us to think.

Part of supporting democracy is supporting education and critical thinking. So today, take a break from contacting voters and elected officials and send a supportive letter to a Banned Author through the American Library Association’s “Dear Banned Author” campaign. There’s a list of addresses for you to use:

I was surprised, to be honest, to see some of the books and authors that have been under attack. I’ll bet you will be too.

(In fact, for those of you with kiddos who like the Goosebumps series, R.L. Stine is on the list. What a great activity to write to their favorite scary story spinner during the month of Halloween!)

You can also Tweet at the author, with the supplied Twitter handle info.

Go here for details:

Friday: Attend Follow-Up Call With Women’s March

Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands joined together to march for reproductive justice. That fight continues.

On October 12 from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET the organizers of the Women’s March “will be strategizing, mobilizing, and discussing next steps on this call, so we are asking you to join us as we plan what’s on the horizon for our fight for abortion access across every state and at the Supreme Court.

Join the organizations behind the Rally for Abortion Justice to discuss what’s on the horizon as we continue to fight for abortion access across states and at the Supreme Court. Sign up here to stay engaged in the fight for abortion justice beyond Oct. 2

Sign up HERE.


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 or via paypal at
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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