What’s Stopping You? (And Happy Anniversary to Our Small Deeds Family)

What’s stopping you? ~John

Over the weekend I had one of those inspiring conversations that stick with you.

A new colleague of mine told me how, over a 12-hour road trip from Texas to Santa Fe in her blue Mazda CRX, she dreamed up a new voter protection organization.

And she told me how that dream led her to sell her house, leave her high-powered job as a lawyer at an internationally renown law firm, and create an incredibly unique and effective voter protection structure. Mark my words: It’s going to be a game changer in the fight against voter suppression.

I’m looking forward to sharing the whole story with you soon.

But as she and I were talking on Sunday, I realized what day it was: November 20.

And it occurred to me that it was exactly six years ago, on a bright and sunny November 20, that I had another inspiring and important conversation.

That morning I went for brunch with my husband and young son. We sat at a corner table by the big front window. I remember how the sunlight warmed my back.

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.

So many people who are looking for something to do. There’s so much power there. We just need to direct it. Someone should do that.

Why don’t you do that? He replied.

That’s crazy. I laughed.

Because, no offense to my Sugar, that really was crazy.

No, really, he said. He looked up, a quite serious expression on his face. You’re a lawyer. You love to write. You even know how to make a website.

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.

He nodded.

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 Wall of Us. Before 5 Calls. Before once-nimble organizing groups corporatized and overstretched and overwhelmed themselves.

It was the wild west of progressive advocacy, and it was pretty darn exciting if I do say so. I’ll bet you remember.

And here we are – six years later.

We’ve learned a lot. About ourselves, about our fellow Americans, and about our country. Some of it has been inspiring. Some, not so much.

Having Small Deeds has given me an outlet – a way to lift 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.

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 six 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.

I’m not going anywhere but forward. 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 one person, but your power is immense.

Before I leave you to your Thanksgiving planning, I want to give you one last thing to think about.

One woman in a blue Mazda set off from her home base in Texas to Santa Fe, and ended up spending the whole trip formulating a plan to beat back voter suppression. Less than two years later, she’s revolutionizing how we protect voters.

A little over six years ago, one woman finished eating her breakfast and decided to start a website to help channel people’s energy and direct it to do good. Six 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.

There’s a lot that one person can do.

And you, my friend, are one person.

So what could you do in one year, or three years, or six?

What could you do if instead of telling yourself why you can’t follow that dream, or take that wild and wonderful leap … you instead asked: why can’t I?

As my husband asked me nearly six years ago to the day: What’s stopping you?

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of November 22, 2022

Call Georgia

H/T to Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water, and to Elizabeth at Markers for Democracy, who shared the action with her. Please help if you can:

There’s real need to help support GA Absentee Ballot voters.

Context: GA Absentee Ballot voting is a mess. Counties are late getting their ballots out. Some have not sent them yet. Some people were sent provisional absentee ballots. The GA state legislature has created a lot of “mousetraps” in the absentee ballots, so they are complicated & the window for voting is small.

The Need: Volunteers to make calls to GA voters who receive absentee ballots & persuade them to vote in person & help arrange for free rides to the polls. Voters over age 75 need not wait in line. These are calls to people who appreciate the call & need the help. We are having success persuading voters to vote in person, but we need more people to make calls.

Training is provided. Mobilize link here. The link description is incorrect (things are moving fast) & will be corrected – but this is the correct link. Description says this is for cure calls, but it is reaching out to voters who receive absentee ballots & help them make arrangements to get to & from the polls. Again, sign up here—there are multiple shifts most days.

Last Day for Working Families Party Postcards to Georgia

Send your friends in GA a postcard, using the Working Families Party outreach tool. NO need to write, get addresses, use your own postcards or pay for postage. They just want to use your photo and contacts to help encourage your own network to vote.

This is an excellent relational tool. Check out what the postcards look like and say here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_yCfiYfirCIzSE8fDA1BXwZ-I7COwC9L2l9oq8yWT2I/edit

Then sign up – quickly, as today’s the last day! – here (at 1pm eastern): https://www.mobilize.us/mobilize/event/543370/

or here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g7UcA6prpbe73G71NTQWwS5KZSetQ3N85ITZyO031nw/edit

Other Postcard Options

Join Activate America to write postcards to Georgia voters. Help get out the vote to elect Sen. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate. It’s urgent, as Dec. 6 is election day. https://www.mobilize.us/mobilize/event/543329/

Postcards to Voters still has addresses and you still have time to write. Already an approved writer? Here are three easy ways to request your addresses:

1. Text HELLO to (484) 275-2229 or

2. Message HELLO to Abby the Address Bot on our Slack channel here: https://bit.ly/SlackAbby or

3. Send an email to: Request@AbbyAddresses.org

Not yet approved and ready to join #PostcardsToVoters?

1. Text JOIN to (484) 275-2229 or

2. Send an email to: Join@TonyTheDemocrat.org


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!


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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