By Cseca Gazzolo, Staff Alumna 2018-20
It’s day one-hundred-and-whatever of quarantine and I’m at home, deepening the body-shaped impression on the couch as I rewatch The Office for the seventh time, ignoring the news notifications popping up on my phone. I stopped my ritualized reading of the New York Times months ago, once all the stories started saying the same thing: it’s really, really bad.
It’s easy right now to feel powerless. Maybe you’re out there on the front lines, marching for Black lives. Maybe you or your loved ones are older or immunocompromised, so you’re supporting your friends on the streets with donations, supplies, and supportive texts. Or maybe you’re like me, sitting in your comfortable home with a fridge full of food and money in the bank, feeling so guilty about the privilege you have that you aren’t using to do any good.
You know what made that guilt shrink just a little bit? Doing something.
I started by asking myself, right now, in this moment, what can I offer? I was already working at SSP, so I wanted to focus on political engagement within that work. The Choose an SSP Adventure advocacy sessions presented a perfect opportunity, and with my wonderful Smith River Team, I created “Calling Your Reps 101.”
“I started by asking myself, right now, in this moment, what can I offer?”
The premise was pretty simple: I would talk about why contacting your elected officials was important, volunteers would share a cause they were passionate about, then everyone would go camera-off-sound-muted while they called their representatives. We used 5calls.org, which lets you select an issue and enter your location, then spits out the numbers of your representatives and a call script (an excellent tool for the phone-shy generation). We also created a cumulative document with example scripts, frequently asked questions, and links to resources on any social justice issue under the sun. Though they couldn’t be together in person, volunteers connected through advocacy, taking heart in the idea that someone else cares just as deeply as they do.
Why is calling your representatives important? Electoral politics impacts every aspect of our lives, from the recycling bins in our backyards to the mask-wearing mandates of our local businesses to the presence of armed police on our streets. Voting is one way to make our voices heard, but many of our volunteers are under eighteen. But even non-voters–youth, undocumented people, people targeted by voter suppression laws–are still constituents, and their opinions on various issues will still get tallied when they make a call. Elected officials want to get re-elected, so they want to vote in the interest of the majority of their constituents. If they receive a flood of calls about something, they have to pay attention.
“Voting is one way to make our voices heard, but many of our volunteers are under eighteen.”
Besides, it’s what Jesus would do. Christ was not shy about speaking truth to power (remember the money changers in the temple?). Political activism, particularly as a means of liberation for the poor and the marginalized, is inherent in our faith. You might say that Jesus would be out on the streets protesting or sitting on the steps of Capitol Hill with his disciples, calling for change–and I agree. But for many of us, that just isn’t possible right now. Maybe a phone call is the best we can do. Christianity is not about perfection; it is about striving for divinity in imperfect circumstances. And when we feel hopeless, or uncertain, or burnt out, we can turn to our God and gather strength to keep fighting the good fight. We cannot keep the torch alight without a fire, and the love of God is a pretty steady source of heat.
“Political activism, particularly as a means of liberation for the poor and the marginalized, is inherent in our faith.”
Our CASA sessions always ended with an air of inspiration, motivation, and joy–yes, joy! Like faith, people sustain us. They hold us accountable. They provide respite after a long day of doing, or encouragement when we don’t feel like doing anything. Worrying in isolation crushes us. A lot of us are probably feeling like we should be “doing more” right now, and that feeling–guilt–drives out all possibility of action. Bearing the knowledge of so much crisis and pain and injustice can be debilitating. When we feel like the weight of the world on our shoulders, we don’t bother getting up.
Taking action together means we can harness some of that worry and channel it into something productive. Self-care is important, but the words “self-care” ring hollow if that’s all we are doing all the time. Self-care is about balance. Rest feels sweetest after we do something worth doing. So we have to start small. Pick one thing–just one–that you care about, and call someone about it. Then do the same thing next week, and the week after that. Maybe gather a group of friends virtually, or think of it as a spiritual practice. Lean into justice, lean into compassion, lean into hope, lean into God’s work. And lean on each other.
Editor’s Note: We hope this inspires you to take action in your own community! Calling your reps is a simple and easy way to address the issues you are passionate about. Try taking action with your friends or youth group or challenging yourself to make 5 calls each week!