Moving Upstream {Guest Post}

postcards to writers

I remember so distinctly a conversation I had in one of my moms’ groups the third week of November in 2016, just after 45 was elected. We were all devastated at the election results. How could this happen? Who even voted for that guy? What can we do? I can imagine that you were in conversations like that as well.

As we grieved together and consoled each other that night (over whiskey and wine), several of us shared concerns about our family (our daughters, especially), our neighbors, and especially the folks in our country who live on the margins. We talked about ways we could help the poor, the LGTBQ community, immigrants, women, people of color, indigenous people, the unemployed and unhoused.  We were concerned about the new administration’s impact on so many people, and while we worried we brainstormed our plans to help.

One woman said that she’d signed up for a shift at the local food distribution center. Another shared that she was talking with her kids about how to make a difference in our area. I had some experience through my faith community writing letters to elected officials asking them to pass legislation to alleviate hunger. I had also been taught the fable called “Babies in the River”. Many of you have heard this story, but I will briefly describe it here for those who have not.

One day, in the river near a small village, one of the villagers saw a baby floating downstream. She jumped in after the baby and saved it. She then cared for that child, kept it safe, and it grew strong. Soon one of her neighbors saw and saved another baby.  And then another. The whole community gathered together to plan how they could be sure that no babies went past their village. They built nets and cradles. They pureed vegetables and prepared soft foods. They created play areas and crafted baby clothes. They created an entire system to help the babies in the river. This is direct service.

After months of support (and many saved babies!), one villager asked “why are the babies in the river?” After some discussion, a few villagers decided to walk upstream to find out how babies came to be in the river floating downstream. They were determined to reduce the number of watery babies. This is advocacy.

Both direct service and advocacy is important. I work to find a balance. Writing postcards is part of advocacy. We write to voters to ask them to be engaged in their community. We encourage them to elect candidates that will write and support laws that will resolve problems in the current system that create more hunger, more people in jails and prisons, and so on. We ask voters to support laws that will stop the downstream impact of the hurt and pain. We want fewer “babies in the river”, so we ask the people that we write to “come upstream with us and we’ll find a way to make a better world”.

I’m proud to be a part of the Blue Wave Postcard movement. It’s a community that does the work necessary to change the upstream policies, and one that is making a difference.

-Trudy V.M. Gygi

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