Small things

I’ve been participating in a social justice effort each Friday, courtesy of my UU State Action Network. A bunch of us gather via Zoom and take a few intentional actions toward increasing justice and equity in some way.

A week or so ago, we composed and submitted letters to the editor of our local newspapers about one of several topics including Medicaid expansion, educational system remediation, voter suppression, and so on. We had talking points, and suggestions for letter format, but were encouraged to make the letters personal.

I wrote a letter lobbying for Medicaid expansion in the state, and included a personal anecdote outlining my struggle to afford health care while unemployed. I didn’t spend very much time on it, and considered it a minimal effort. I had revised it a couple of times, but finally just hit the “submit” button on the publication’s website and called it a day.

To my shock, the letter was published a couple of days later. This publication doesn’t notify you if your submission is published, but a friend of mine just let me know about it in passing. I was unabashedly thrilled, and had a spontaneous goofy smile on my face that is only just now fading.

Having your thoughts recognized and witnessed by others does something for a person. When you dabble in writing endeavors, it’s a bigger deal than just making your point. It inexplicably validates the effort, the clarity of thought as well as the artistry. I didn’t consider this a particularly skillful expression, but someone else considered it decent enough to publish.

It’s such a small thing, not like having been published in the New York Times or anything, or paid for a commissioned work, but it’s a thing. There is gratification in having cared enough to impart one’s thoughts for an unknown audience, followed through on making those musing available, and having an impartial judge consider it worthy to transmit. Such a small thing.

A multiplicity of small things will change the energy of our shared existence, and thereby change the world. We underestimate the value of such contributions, and often ignore the less than grandiose. I am infernally guilty of that, frequently deciding that imperfection makes a contribution entirely useless. The letter to the editor that I submitted was tremendously imperfect, but it expressed thoughts I wanted to share so the intent was perfect.

To have someone else affirm that what you feel and what you think is not bullshit is a big deal, even if it’s whispered. A great many monumental things start with a whisper, as Tracy Chapman says in one of her songs…”Don’t you know we’re talking ’bout a revolution, and it sounds…like a whisper?”

Revolutions are sometimes about millions of people and millions of dollars, but they start with one person deciding that something needs to change. That decision is about one person, who finds commonality with another, then another, and another until a gargantuan web of common sentiment is woven. That is how communities of common interest are formed, whether the common interest is voter empowerment or soccer.

It starts with the desire, the passion that will make sympathetic vibrations shake the foundation of receives the focus. We can do this, but perhaps we don’t believe in ourselves. Perhaps we have become accustomed to admitting defeat before we’ve even begun to fight. That’s how it works in my little corner of the Universe, when I stop trying because, “Oh, well. It doesn’t matter how many times you try you’re too small to really make a difference. Just accept that here you are and here you are going to stay.”

That’s the definition of stuck, and I don’t want to be stuck any longer. I don’t believe I have to be stuck, don’t believe there’s nothing I can do. Of course, I must admit, that I have no idea what exactly I can do to change my circumstances or anything I care about, but I have to believe that I’ll figure that out, that something will come to me.

I frequently proclaimed that a storm was coming, so be prepared to run. Run, hide, stay low and wait until the authorities sound the all-clear. Maybe I’m the authority, at least of my own situation. I get to say when it’s all-clear and I get to say whether I’ll run. Maybe running away doesn’t quite fill the bill these days. Some of us are going to have to run toward the disaster, run into the wind, run into the burning building.

We know how to survive. Our survival efforts may not always be successful, but we know how to do that. I have said many times in recent years that I no longer want to survive. I want to live. There is a difference between surviving and living, and I am opting for the latter.

It will be OK. And no, I don’t know what OK looks like, but that may be a good thing. If I knew what OK looked like, it would probably be the recycled image of someone else’s vision and not my own. I have the duty to create what OK looks like for me, and I want to get in the game.

Ain’t I a woman, too?

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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