“Once the thunderstorm starts, raindrops can no longer vote.” Mike Klepper
During the book signing portion of a recent discussion on mental health advocacy I was approached by a woman wearing sunglasses and a flat affect.
“How can I get involved with my legislators?”
“Well do you know who they are?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“That’s the first step. Call, visit, write. Get connected with organizations whose legislative agendas you support and spread the message.”
“Is that all?”
“That’s a lot more than most people do ma’am.”
“Yeah but it seems so small and insignificant.”
“But imagine if everyone did it?”
“But I wanted to do something bigger. Isn’t there something bigger I could be doing?”
“Sure – organize, protest, speak out. But the power for change lies in the hands of your lawmakers and if they don’t know that the people who elect them value mental health issues then nothing will change. When I worked as a legislative assistant many years ago the number one issue we heard about was cable competition.
People wanted to save money on their cable bills. Thousands of them called, emailed, and wrote letters. That’s where my boss’s attention went that year. Nothing is bigger than the collective voice of the people who elect these people to office. If you call and remind them ‘Hey, I vote and this is important to me,’ and they hear that enough they will have no choice but to listen.”
“Ok well that’s easy. I can do that. Thanks.”
I once had a Rabbi who would say “One plus one equals one; and one plus one plus one to infinity equals one.” When I sit alone in my office mired in the enormity of this work I become overwhelmed and frozen. There is nothing that I as a single person can do to make a difference. It feels too big for one person. When I find the courage and the fortitude to fulfil my promise and sit with, march with, talk to, and connect with others who feel equally overwhelmed the truth becomes clear:
It feels too big for one person because it is not meant for one person to carry.
Today we saw what can happen when we remember the power of one plus one equals one. We are only as powerful as our collective oneness. Those magnificent, prevailing, articulate young people could have shown up to speak their beautiful words but without the thousands of people marching in the streets those kids would have been screaming into a void. We all have to show up. All. Of. Us. It’s ok if you can’t march but find a way to show up to this fight.
These kids are forced to stand-up because we have not been able to keep them safe. The adults have been too complacent. We failed. Now it’s time for us to learn from them exactly what it looks like to be brave, to act, and to remember that we do have power.
As I walked among the throngs, flanked by my three children, a high school marching band – thump, thumping down the closed streets of one of the oldest, most historically fraught cities in this country I felt hopeful energy radiating. Teens and babies shared the streets with grandmothers and grandfathers, diverse and beautiful. Each individual added one more heart full of love, one more brain full of ideas and possibilities, two more hands to help, two more legs marching toward the vision of tomorrow.