FIVE small actions you can take right now

It’s easier than you think

So…an election just happened, yeah?

And the results have obviously been disruptive, to say the least. Like, the absolute LEAST. Because I do not want to downplay the fact that people who have been killed in the name of “safety” now are memorialized names representing the many demographics whose lives are at stake simply for existing in this less-than-majority elected next Presidency. Nearly 1000 hate-crimes have been reported (and who knows how many have gone unreported) just since November 8th.

But we can’t only reference the growing number of hate crimes to define our need to show up for one another. Especially not when there are people who have zero clue what actually defines a “hate crime”. Or harrasment. Or sexual assault. Or that “reverse racism” doesn’t exist. If we fight only to be to be more right, to have tallied more proof, then we do so while standing on top of the people who have been suffering since before this election, who don’t have the luxury of citing their proof for doing what they do because they’ve been doing it all along just to survive.

So, YES- you MUST call Congress and your representatives and the White House and flood their offices with the voices of the more than a million people who voted against hate and violence. YOU MUST DO THIS.

AND. This isn’t going to feed your co-worker who’s currently measuring how much food they can eat if they want to keep the heat on. This isn’t going to help your disabled neighbor who feels just as passionately as you do but you’ve never met because their healthcare barely covers enough support to get them to the grocery store or the doctor- let alone to the next party or protest. This isn’t going to give the more-than-burned-out parents to children with developmental disorders a moment more to find some sleep. This isn’t going to better protect the Mosques, the Synagogues, or even the bus stops where non-white children gather every single day.

You can make a phone call now on blue tooth from your car. With your headphones in on your walk to the subway. On speaker-phone while you’re getting dressed in the morning. Your phone call to Congress is necessary, and also the least amount of showing up that you could possibly do to prove that you are “so woke” after you re-post the latest story from Shaun King.

And when I speak about “showing up”, I’m not talking about organizing technology or mindful conversations or being the most empathetic. I’m speaking from many years of being physically, verbally, sometimes sexually, assaulted at a real job that the majority of people don’t even know exists. One without tasers, or guns, or a system that looks the other way when excessive force is used. One that requires the greatest skills in both restraint and compassion. One that pays very little but requires daily advocacy, movement, and even protest to make sure that the most vulnerable children get the most basic needs met.

And I stop breathing for a moment everytime I see someone posting about, or wearing, a safety pin. Because I know the level of “showing up” that may be required and quite honestly, I feel ready to take it. And I worry that I might feel “too ready” and will put myself into too much danger. And I worry that there are people who think they’re ready but have no idea that sometimes compassionate words and a shoulder to lean on just aren’t enough. And I worry that they aren’t prepared to de-escalate, to deflect, to physically defend. I reflect on my past work experience, the experience that tells me I’m ready, and remember how angry I felt when people used to say to me “oh but your work must be so rewarding”, not because they couldn’t do it, but because they wouldn’t want to deal with it. I feel for the people (though I will never know the full feeling) who are sick of speaking out, and standing up, and defending their right to be heard in the faces of people who say “we are one race- the human race. Love and light only, please” and the right to exist under the powers of people who support policies that put their lives at risk.

And I know— since the work I used to do has the highest turn-over rate of people saying “yeah that work just didn’t serve me”— that awareness and empathy do not equal action. That finally realizing that you have to actually do something if you believe that “we are all one” is not the same as really doing something. That you can’t criticize the people who believe in trickle-down-economics while preaching trickle-down-spirituality. That if you are still looking to Facebook to answer you when you ask in the face of hatred, violence, racism, ableism, xenophobia, and mysoginy: “what can I do?” that you may have some soul searching…and community searching…to do. *Note, this is not to downplay the importance of social media for finding resources, connection, and a platform to share your voice.

I don’t want to end this on a rant. Especially since the title is “FIVE small actions you can take right now”. So here we go, here are those 5 small actions that you could probably take before breakfast:

  1. Find people with disabilities in your social media networks and re-share their posts. Autistic Hoya and @Maysoonzayid are two of my favorite voices on social media. But, take notice. Do you have many, or any, friends with disabilities? Do you have a friend who is blind? Deaf? Autistic? In a wheelchair? On crutches? With a chronic illness? Before you generally criticize people who don’t “get organized” according to your vision, who don’t protest, who speak out too much on social media, realize that for- well- EVER, most people with disabilities have had the most limited resources for getting their voices heard and face more systemic silencing than can be comprehended. It’s even estimated that 3million people with disabilities didn’t vote not because they opted out or because of feeling like it wouldn’t count, but because they just couldn’t access the polls or no one took care to make sure they knew how to. So if you’re thinking about taking a break from social media, instead, take your “time off” and commit it to sharing only from people who depend on the platform for expressing their voice.
  2. On that note, if you are protesting or attending an event, or hosting an event- Do not say that it is accessible if it is not. Better yet, MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE. And know what that means. Will you be prepared should a non-verbal person show up, a deaf person, a blind person, someone who has slow processing? Have you asked your webinar attendees if they’ll need an interpreter? Do you know how to go about hiring an ASL interpreter? Do you have visuals in case verbal cues are overwhelming? Perhaps the protest is on one flat road but is the transportation accessible? Are you willing to help someone bathe, get dressed, change their catheter, and go at their pace? And if you aren’t prepared, if you aren’t able to make totally accessible, simply be honest. At the minimum acknowledge the shortcomings of an event, who it might not be able to reach, and perhaps ask if anyone could step up and make it better. Disabilities exist across all races, religions, and regions. It’s time we all start taking action accordingly.
  3. Cook for your neighbor. Don’t just look out for the next biggest action, petition to sign, or appointee to speak against. Look around you. This election didn’t stop death, nor the need for some people to work 60–90 hours per week, nor children with 24/7 needs from their parents and caregivers, nor group homes from running, nor the elderly. We are all feeling the overwhelm of work that needs to be done after this election. But many people feel it more, while still many more don’t feel it at all because they already feel too much. So seriously. Bake. Cook. Clean. Shovel. Do something for that friend or neighbor who might not be taking action because their life has never had a break from all the action. Whose energy for protest may be getting saved up for the next IEP meeting or health scare or snow storm. You have no idea how much this small action can mean to people who are so much on the front-lines that they don’t even know if there’s anyone at their backs.
  4. Send “Thank You” cards. Actual, hand-written, put-in-an-envelope, stick on a stamp, THANK YOU cards. AND send them while the work is in-progress. Did you recently vote for raising the minimum wage? Cool. Now send a card to the people who work at minimum wage, or less than living wage, and thank them. You’d be surprised where you’ll find these people. Cleaning our schools and community centers. Providing direct care in homes, group homes, and hospitals. Pouring your next cup of coffee. Changing the oil in your car. *Also note (speaking from personal experience now) most of these people don’t get raises or bonuses. They might get $5 pizzas from administration as a “thank you” on the occasional Friday while they’re desperately burned out and trying to be healthy. If you can, consider throwing in a gift card to a healthier delivery service or drop off your card with a pile of veggies* Or if you don’t have a card on you, say thank you like you mean it. Pause. Make eye contact. And realize that someone just took the time to do something for you whether it was holding the door, working in a job you could never do, or toasting your breakfast bagel. Give the “thank you” as a heartfelt exchange, not a polite habit.
  5. Don’t hesitate to tell people how you feel about them. This doesn’t have to be a proclamation to a hidden desperate love or a memoir for your most admired mentor. You know when you’re scrolling through Facebook and you see that friend and think “awe they’re so great and amazing and I miss them and they’re being so brave and I wish I could see them more” and then you scroll down and spend 20 minutes watching a cat dressed as a shark riding a Rumba? Well. Don’t. Pick up your phone and send that friend a message. It takes literally 8 seconds. Don’t just post a quote by Maya Angelou and say “we really need each other right now”. Don’t wait until “being there for each other” comes in the form of a late night crisis, or a harmful policy, or someone getting assaulted on the streets. We need to build each other up so that we have the energy to be there for one another when those moments happen. So get out your phone. Do you know someone who just moved away? A co-worker who’s been really vocal online? Is there someone you barely know but you always look to them to know what to say? A relative who works long hours? A friend you haven’t seen in a while? Tell them that you’re thinking about them. It doesn’t even have to be a phone call. In fact, I think a text might actually be better here (unless you have a Grammy like mine who was barely convinced to get a DVD player. Then you’ll have to call). Let that person really see and sink into the knowing that you’re with them. It doesn’t just have an effect on the person you send it to. It’ll have an effect on you, too, as you begin to type out the message and you realize that this isn’t just a kind gesture but one full of meaning and empowerment you maybe forgot that you had.

Ok, there you go! Five things you could probably do in the next hour. All while calling your representatives in Congress. They aren’t substantial, but they are incredibly meaningful.

Reach far and wide. Reach out. And reach close.

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