What’s stopping you? ~John V.
The third week in November is always a reflective one for me.
It’s Thanksgiving Week, so it’s a good time to spend time thinking aboutwhat I’m grateful for.
But it also marks another anniversary. On a bright and sunny afternoon five years ago, I sat in a cafe, at a table close to the corner and right by the big front window. The sunlight warmed my back all through brunch.
It was just after the 2016 election – a scarlet red time, when everyday life was punctuated with emotions and fears so sharp they left a metallic taste in your mouth.
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. Because that really was crazy.
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.
It was before Indivisible. Before organized calls-to-action were a regular thing. Before once-nimble organizing groups corporatized and overstretched and overwhelmed themselves.
It was the wild west of advocacy, and it was pretty darn exciting if I do say so. You might remember.
And here we are – five years later. We’ve learned a lot. About ourselves, about our fellow Americans, and about our country. Some has been inspiring. Some, not so much.
Having Small Deeds has given 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 gives me some measure of control over 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, Small Deeds has grown. For that I feel equal parts gratitude and disbelief. Because at the end of the day, I have you to thank for helping me get through the last five years.
Without you, I’d have been floundering about trying to find a place to be useful.
You’ve given me quite a gift. Thank you.
Before you ask – Small Deeds is not done, and I’m not going anywhere. I hope you aren’t either. The work of democracy is far from over. It was never over, actually – it’s just that we didn’t recognize how critical each one of us is in protecting it.
You are an essential part of how our country responds to the present moment, and those to come.
We are an essential part of how our country responds to the present moment.
Before I leave you to your Thanksgiving planning, I want to give you one last thing to think about.
One woman – 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. Five 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 five years, if you just asked yourself: why not?
As my husband asked me nearly five years ago to the day: What’s stopping you?
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of November 23, 2021
Call Senators: It’s Time To Build Back Better
With the House passing BBB last week (woot!!), it’s all hands on deck to pass that legislation in the Senate. Call your Senators ASAP because it’s always hard to connect with staff during Thanksgiving week!
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at [zip code]. I’m calling because the Build Back Better bill that just passed the House will do so many great things for [your state]. I urge Senator [name] to support Build Back Better and help pass it as soon as possible. [If you have a specific part of the legislation that you want to highlight, do it! I always note the $35 cap on insulin, and what that provision will do to the local and state economy. So many people pay thousands per month in insulin costs – think of what those funds could do if they weren’t going into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies!]
Defending Democracy Begins With Election Reform. The Freedom to Vote Act.
For the first time, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has identified the United States as a democracy that is “backsliding.” We all know why. Aggressive and extensive gerrymandering, red state voting laws that make it harder for some voters to cast their ballot, and laws that make it easier for politicians in state legislatures to challenge the results… all of it means the fight for democracy is being waged right now in state legislatures all over the country.
The problem is, the GOP legislators in those state houses (that have been gerrymandered such that these politicians stand no chance of losing, and many of whom have never been in nor won a competitive election) really don’t care what Democrats think, or what some international democracy-focused agency thinks. They care about power. Specifically, their power.
Democrats in red states have worked hard, but red states with gerrymandered supermajorities undo any progress that’s made. We need to see federal intervention, in the form of the Freedom to Vote Act. Here’s what’s in the bill (from the Brennan Center)
Every state would be required to have automatic voter registration. Election Day would become a federal holiday. Every eligible citizen could request a mail ballot and drop it off at a secure drop box if they so desire.
The Freedom to Vote Act also advances civil rights and racial justice. It restores federal voting rights to returning citizens who have been released from prison after serving their sentences. The bill includes targeted protections to ensure underserved and vulnerable communities, such as those with disabilities and Native Americans, aren’t disenfranchised through no fault of their own.
It addresses the flood of undisclosed “dark money” into the electoral process and creates the option for matching funds for House candidates when states opt in, modernizing and expanding federal campaign finance reforms passed in previous decades.
And — perhaps most time-sensitive of them all — as states begin to draw their voting maps for the next decade, the legislation bans partisan gerrymandering and makes it easier for judges to strike down maps that unfairly entrench one political party in power and deny communities of color fair representation.
So if you’ve held off calling your Senators because you weren’t sure what what in the bill, or why it was important, please do so now. This legislation is critical, must-pass – for the sake of our democracy. Call them now – it will take 5 minutes.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. There’s so much in that bill that is critical – and that should be bipartisan. This isn’t a partisan issue. The health of our democracy is at stake. Please urge the Senator to support the bill. Thanks.
Write a Note of Thanks
Thanksgiving is a great week to reflect on what we’re grateful for – and it’s even better when you let people/organizations know that you appreciate them. So this week, as you’re reflecting on gratitude, give special attention to the local, state, and national leaders that you are grateful for. Send them a note, give them a call, or even Tweet at them and let them know that their efforts make a difference. Trust me – it will get their attention!
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!
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.