Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If It's Not Right, You Have To Put It Right

There's a song on my playlist that never fails to make me smile and feel better. "Naughty," from Matilda the Musical should be required listening for all kids with a gleam in their eye to change the world. My advocate-daughters took to learning all the words immediately after we saw the show together.

Just because you find that life's not fair it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin & bear it
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
Nothing will change
Even if you're little, you can do a lot you
Mustn't let a little thing like "little" stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
might as well be saying you think it's okay
And that's not right!
And if it's not right!
You have to put it right!

But nobody else is gonna put it right for me
Nobody but me is gonna change my story
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. 

My wee girls in a great big hall.
Matilda makes a case for getting into trouble for the greater good in the long run. It's easy to see the connections between the musical and how we should stand up to bullies in the classroom. It also reminds me about how we should stand up to bullies in politics. But I even make the link to think that it can inspire kids to not let a little thing like "little" stop them from going up to a U.S. senator to say "that's not right" even if they do look awfully tiny in the marble halls of Congress.

U.S. Representative John Lewis
 of Georgia
It also reminds me of civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis who regularly tells audiences that sometimes we need to "get into good trouble" to make big change. He gave his blood and others gave their lives so that they and all Americans of color might have the right to vote. While I don't relish the thought of me or especially my children being beaten for standing up for our beliefs, nothing's gonna change if we always take it on the chin and wear it. 

I was so excited the last time I took my girls to Washington D.C. because THE John Lewis was leading a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives over the issue of gun laws. Unfortunately, by the time our plane landed and we got to Capitol Hill, the House was closed to the public and the sit-in was breaking up. I wanted to show them what good, non-violent trouble looked like. Still, we had watched him on C-SPAN earlier and they learned about it that way. I think Congressman Lewis might agree that "sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty."

Anyway, the bouncy lyrics of "Naughty" are all well and good when you're feeling empowered and on your game. Sometimes, however, I admit that I feel a little like Matilda's beloved teacher, Miss Honey (a.k.a. Jenny). Miss Honey sings a song about feeling that she is not worth enough. She doesn't think she's strong enough to be the champion that Matilda needs.

But this little girl needs somebody strong 
to fight by her side
Instead she's got me, pathetic little me
And another door closes
And Jenny's outside.

If we're being honest, most of us sometimes feel like Miss Honey who can't gather her courage to speak up in "This Little Girl." But the powerful point is that like many good teachers, Miss Honey, sees Matilda. She sees the need that no one else does. And sometimes the person who is aware of a problem has to be inspired by the need of the vulnerable person(s) to find the strength in herself.  

How do you feel about "good trouble"?
What songs inspire you to speak up?

P.S. I'm not a saint. The song "Telly" that literally sings the praises of television makes me insanely happy as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beyond Voting...How YOU Can Influence an Election

Me, at the Hillary for American HQ in St Louis
Usually, I spend my space in this blog talking about advocacy and the ways we can influence government in-between elections. It IS election season, however, so I want to talk about how to influence the election beyond simply voting.

I was walking along with a mom-friend talking about the presidential election. Like most people, we were airing general grievances about the election news being everywhere you turn. Finally, she made the offhand comment, "Yeah, but after the primaries, there's nothing you can do about it until November." Ahhhh...she should know better than to lob an easy pitch like that at me! I love my friend very, very much, but that kind of attitude is exactly how elections are lost. Of COURSE there are a lot of things an average person can do about the election! 

My candidate, Hillary Clinton, isn't a quitter and neither am I. So, here's my list of easy things we can do to help Hillary (or any of your favorite down-ballot candidates) win:

#1 Talk to your friends about why you like your candidate. I know this sounds simple, but I know it's actually not easy for a lot of people. Yet it's so important! Person-to-person interactions are at the heart of political campaigns. Especially in a battleground state, your personal endorsement may be the thing that swings the vote of someone who respects you. And, as Lindy West said in her opinion piece in The Guardian, it's not enough to talk about why the opponent is bad. We need to talk about why Hillary Clinton is good! For me, it's her lifelong commitment to the health and well-being of women and children around the world. As an advocate, I've fought for HIV/AIDS funding, for girls' global education, and against child-killing diseases like pneumonia. Hillary Clinton has been right along side me on these issues as a senator, Secretary of State, and through the Clinton Foundation. Her tenacity for the issues I'm passionate about is probably the most compelling thing about her for me.

#2 Donate money. Yeah, It's a bummer that money makes the political world go 'round, but it does. The good news is that if you feel intimidated taking other more public actions, this might be an easy thing to do. Give $10 or $100 or $1000. Whatever is meaningful to you! Remember how far Bernie Sanders got with an average gift of $27? The little amounts can really add up and make a big difference. 

Bring your laptop and your cell phone. Modern
campaign work centers around these tools!
#3 Volunteer. How about getting out of your own space and meeting other people who share your enthusiasm? I find that is really valuable for my peace of mind when I live in an area with many people who do not share my opinions. Here are some of the things our volunteers do here at Hillary for America HQ in St Louis: 
  • Phonebanking (calling prospective voters to gather data and get out the vote)
  • Data entry
  • Answering phones
  • Door to door canvassing in other states
  • Calling other volunteers to remind them of their phone banking or canvassing shifts
  • Recruiting volunteers at community events like farmer's markets and festivals 
  • Voter registration
You can be in the trenches of making things, sometimes there is cake! Aaaand....if you volunteer for Hillary, sometimes actor Sean Astin will randomly show up!!! 

#4 Promote your candidate on social media. For people who regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, this might be the easiest thing to do. You don't have to get in the middle of national-level back and forth like Twitter heavyweight Peter Daou. Just tweet positive messages about what your candidate is doing or pictures of the action at your local campaign headquarters. Blogging (as I'm doing right now) is even better! Be sure to use all the local and national hashtags (like #ImWithHer #ClintonKaine #HillaryForMO ) when you tweet.

St Louis could really use some soda, bottled water, treats for
volunteers, garbage cans, and - oddly - a helium tank.
#5 Donate things. Hey, how does that cake magically get there to feed volunteers? Ah, someone DONATED it! Phone bankers are fueled by snack foods, soda, and water. Every headquarters probably has an ever-changing list of things they need from office chairs to bins to markers to bottled water.

There you go! Surely, there is something on this list you feel comfortable doing. And, even better, pick an additional one you feel a little uncomfortable doing and ask a friend to do it with you. After all, we're "Stronger Together" !!
Photo: (you
can buy these for $5 and they have braille on them)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Kiva Loan for Water

Here's a confession of mine: Sometimes, in an effort to get out a timely blog for a particular poverty awareness day, I'll write up a blog with suggestions for action before I've taken any concrete action myself. Now, it could be said that the writing of a blog is an action in itself. Nevertheless, it makes me feel like a bit of a phony if I haven't walked the walk before I publish a post. Alas...this is what deadlines to do the best of poverty-fighters from time to time. 

So, it was a whole week after the actual World Water Day last March, that I re-read my own blog to inspire myself and practice what I preach. Even though making a Kiva microfinance loan wasn't on my list of suggested ideas the week prior, I thought I'd head to to see if there were any water related projects I could help with. Kiva lets you give a loan as small as $25 to someone in extreme poverty, so that person can invest your money in a project that will both improve his or her life and allow a system to pay you back. I knew exactly what kind of project I wanted to fund this time. I wanted to lend to a mother for a water well or pump. Kiva did not disappoint!

This is the description for a loan that I found for a mom in Cambodia:
"Hay is a 56 years old married woman. She lives with her husband and 5 children in Ou Sangkae Village, Mien Commune, Prey Chhor District, Kampong Cham Province, where she operates a farming business. She has been a farmer for since 1985 and earns approximately USD $5.00 per day.

This year, the weather in Cambodia is too hot and it lacks rain. To handle this problem and to help her further develop her farming business, Hay is taking a loan Kiva from HKL to buy a water pump, which will be used to carry the water into the rice fields. Hay will continue working in her business in order to boost income for her family and provide them a better quality of life.

She is thankful to all lenders for their generous support"

A loan of $500 helped Hay to buy a water pump. I was proud to be the fifteenth funder, the one who fulfilled that last $25 to make her project take flight. That was five months ago. As of today, she has paid back 22% of her loan from us. I have no doubt that she will pay all of it back in the predicted 20 months. In the ten or so years I've been a Kiva lender, every single loan has been paid back to me in full. I'm fine without my 25 bucks for as long as it takes. In fact, truth be told, I'd be okay without that money at all. But I know it's also important to Hay and thousands of others like her that she have the means to pay back then loan as a businesswoman, not a charity case. When she pays it back, she's going to feel her own worth...and I can turn that money around and fund someone else's dream.

I have faith that the pump is moving life-giving water to life-giving crops and helping her family to survive. My hope - and Hay's - is that this loan will put her family on the path to moving out of poverty with dignity. 

Have you ever given a Kiva loan? 
If so, what kind of project did you help fund?
If not...what are you waiting for?