Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just Post: Is it enough? Just Do: Is it too much?


A long time ago in blogging time (a year and a half ago) Jozet at Halushki shared with me an email she'd gotten about "everybody DRESS ALIKE on Friday to show support for the troops."

I'm enough of a Cynic and a Realist to think the troops don't give a rat's rear about how we dress here. Not while checking the ground for bombs and so forth.

I figured they care about (in no specific order) (a) care packages, (b) getting home alive, in one piece, and (c) doing their job to the best of their ability.

So, while they might get a brief second of joy out of seeing a sea of red shirts in a photo or something, I felt pretty sure a better way to support the troops was to (a) send a care package, (b) pressure politicians to get our troops home, alive, in one piece and (c) find ways to enable them to succeed (so they could do their jobs to the best of their ability).

I got so caught up in doing that I forgot to remember to definitely not wear red that Friday.

I did, however, remember to blog about it. I wrote, "You passive activists...you guys ROCK! You are what makes this country PROUD!"

It was quite the sarcastic, cynical little rant, and although in there were a few valuable nuggets, I think, on the whole, it was too focused, which caused it to be dismissive of potential value in writing or quiet messages.

It's not necessary to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Words are powerful. Words can educate, inform, and motivate.

I thought about this concept, and remembered that old post, when I read Mad's blog yesterday and her introduction to the excellent and lengthy list of Just Posters from November.

Mad questioned whether this was a sort of "Facebook activism" whereby we lull ourselves into complacency and think a post or registering a protest is enough.

Although I definitely spend a lot of time with my good friends Disdain and Cynicism, they are nowhere to be found when it comes to the Just Posts.

I think participants in Just Post are already out doing a lot. When they write about it, they convey information and experience, which causes people to begin thinking differently. When people think differently, they do differently, and may even vote differently. Their prioritization of issues may shift.

I can safely say that being in the monthly company of such an Inspiring group of Doers keeps me motivated to get out and do more.

It does take a time and effort commitment. That can be a challenge for those of us who are mothers of young children.

Still, I think if we each continue to watch for and seize each opportunity that comes our way---that which we can manage to do---then we are doing. More, we are doing our part to somehow make this world a little better when we leave it than when we entered it.

Each little thing we do matters. It's worth it.

So maybe one person makes signs and another person testifies before the EPA. Maybe one person takes food to the homebound and another person organizes a large shipment of care packages to Iraq. Someone does copious research about each candidate's stand on health care and someone else donates a cake to a fundraiser. This person might participate in a march on Washington that came about because that person started a Facebook activist group.

We are all activists in some way. It matters. Big or little.

As a result of my "abstinence-only education is ineffective" posts I learned more people in my community are unhappy with the social education the school district offers than I imagined. I found more people who wished things were taught differently. It lead to a great conversation with a few people and the decision to begin diplomatic efforts to improve the social education within the school districts. It opened up intriguing conversation with local politicians.

As a result of my long-ago post about being opposed to some development in my area, I've joined up with a group of citizens who have now organized to oppose, en masse, development that we believe is unsound environmentally, ecologically, and community-wise.

It all begins with an idea. Ideas are expressions of our consciousness, and when we share them we increase other consciousness. And that? Is the wind of change.
The wind of change is blowing through the continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.
---typically attributed to Harold MacMillan ~ 1960ish (?)

If you haven't had a chance to yet, check out the inspirational and motivational Just Posts from November.

Mad's Spot
Jen's Spot
Susanne's Spot
Hel's spot

That said, I want to say I understand people who feel overwhelmed or as if they can't do enough.

Any time of year it's easy to get bogged down with need requests and things we ought to do to make a difference.

But this month---Dread December---it gets overwhelming. Blogs posts, blog movements, Facebook movements, phone calls, emails, hallway hitups, newspaper pleas, television pressure, and so on all compete with one another for my time, money and effort.

I find myself, in December, growing irritated by the constant hitups. Pledge this, help with that, buy this, donate that...join this movement. It's like a plague.

December isn't the only month that there is need, but it is certainly the month we believe people are most likely to be generous, and that's when the need requests start coming out of the woodwork.

Here's a truth about me: I am more likely to say NO in December because I am flat out totally burnt out overwhelmed. Ask me in June. Offer me babysitting.

I am in full sympathy with every person who is feeling like a disappointment to the cause right now. It's tough to have to say 50 nos for every one yes. It does make you feel like you aren't doing enough, and when you feel like that, you feel powerless, and when you feel powerless and overwhelmed? It's easy to slide into doing nothing or doing too much.

I think we need to rework how and when we beg for people's help and support. Unfocus it from December. Break it apart and spread it out across the year.

Give people a break and get better results.

And for those of you who feel like you don't do enough, I really believe every little and big bit counts.

You know what they say about toddlers and eating: don't think about it across a day, think about it across a week.

Think that way about helping. Don't consider it solely in the here and now, consider it across your lifetime. We all have different abilities and resources that shine at different points.

Just do what you can; that's what you can do.

Note: Reminder...Wednesday's Hump Day is courtesy of Maddy of whittereronautism: personal pet peeves, we all have them, but I like the unique ones. Ones that other people don't share and most importantly, the why?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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29 comments:

melissa said...

I'm the same way about December hit-ups. Make me cringe. But I usually end up doing a little something anyway.

The bigger stuff is hard though. It's so easy to get the attitude of "someone else will take care of it", or "I can't possibly make a difference". But it is lots of little things that lead to the big things.

Good thoughtful post today. :) Thanks. It was something I needed to hear as I get ready to take on my school district.

alejna said...

I feel the same way about the Just Posts. They represent activism of many different forms and sizes. And I do think they have an impact. Their ongoing, monthly timing means that I keep thinking about issues from month to month. And what's more, I think about more ways that I can be doing, and not just thinking.

I strongly believe that writing about issues in a personal way motivates the writer. And what's more, it can also motivate others who read. I know that I have been changed by the experience of writing and reading. I have changed some habits, taken some small actions, thought about bigger actions, moved in the direction of those bigger actions. But what's important is that I've been moving in the right direction, and even nudging a few people along with me.

alejna
collecting tokens

ab said...

I remember getting that email from my aunt and thinking...what the hell? To conservatives, the word "support" is an empty gesture. A car magnet. A red hat on a Friday. It is not the ability to say "we screwed up...come on home" or decent gear with which to defend oneself against the enemy, upon whose home turf we tread. You're right.

http://wordgirl5.typepad.com/apathy_lounge

Magpie said...

I'm in the "every little bit helps" camp. So I write about what I feel is important or germane, and I respond similarly - with money, with words, with actions.

we_be_toys said...

Good post - quite thought provoking. It is a question that has gone through my mind as well - how can blogging make a difference? You gave some very good examples.

thailandchani said...

I figure we all do the work our own way and it can't be quantified. One way doesn't inherently have more value than another way.

kaliroz said...

At least the Just Posts engage in conversation about issues. That's much needed in a society that likes to overlook hard things. They are a kind of activism. Every little bit helps, I think. You do what you can. I can't give a lot of money, but I can write about things. (Although not as often anymore.)

One is not better than the other. They are all needed.

Andrea said...

I think the highest value of the Just Posts is in reminding us that we are not alone, in our own little corners of our own little neighbourhoods where it feels, at least to me, that no one else out there really cares. It's good to know that other people care. It can give one courage to act.

But I really should expand that into my own post.

I hate blogger for making me do this!

Andrea

Kathryn said...

You are a wise woman. A very powerful post. Thank you, yet again, for making us all think. I think every little bit helps, but we can always do more.

Maddy said...

I'm sitting on the fence as usual.
Best wishes

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

Julie Pippert said...

Melissa, GL with the school district. let us know how it goes.

My thing is I have to learn patience; Rome wasn't built in a day. :)

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Alejna, I agree. That's it, exactly, what's at the heart of it.

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Ab, oh yes that's it...empty expressions. Put words to action, too.

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Magpie, exactly. I think each time someone says, "Oh I did this, someone out there, who has been wanting to do something, will see that and think, ha that's something I can do, yeah."

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We, thanks, I'm glad. :)

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Chani, yes, I agree. Sometimes I wonder why we measure so much; it is learned or inherent, when is it helpful and too much?

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Roz, BABE! Good to see you. yes, you nailed it. :)

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Andrea, I agree, and yes, please expand.

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Kathryn, thanks!

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Maddy, how so?
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painted maypole said...

point well made

Mad got me thinking, too. ;)

ALM said...

Hmmm... So you've made me feel a bit guilty -- even though I know that was not your meaning at all. my big rationalization for not doing more volunteerism... or much of anything outside of work -- is that my work is just a few dollars more than volunteerism! Social work: Over worked & under paid! I've always worked non-profit, and because of the hard work & low pay I've rationalized myself out of doing any more. Or too much more - because I do do some. But I think I have just about enough compassion for 9-5 & my kids... then the cynical bitch kicks in for everything else.
But I should. Do something. Even a little....

jen said...

Julie,
Thank you. Mad and I have been debating the efficacy of Just Posts and for me, truly, it's how one measures impact at all.

I always come back to consciousness. We raise it, and something shifts. It's something. But hearing others thoughts on it really helps me think it through. I'll also be writing a post about it this week.

Thank you.

Mad Hatter said...

Thank you, Julie. As you know, I agree with all you have said here--or else I wouldn't be doing the Just Posts. However, I also think it fundamental to be open and honest about the self-doubts we have along the way.

Family Adventure said...

Great post, Julie. I haven't read all the comments here, so excuse me if this has already been brought up.

Part of the reason for all the charity requests at this time of year is weather-related, no? And come January, there's no money left, as people are still reeling from the expenses of December. So it makes sense to do these "hit-ups" before Xmas.

This is not to say that such campaigns couldn't be spread out more...of course they could. But the weather brings out the urgency...

The Just Posts make people think. People from different stratas and all around the world. IF that's not potential for change, then I don't know what is...

Heidi

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Hmm...then I wonder what I'm doing on my blog - which I promoted then on Facebook (the Oxfam well-digging), I wonder how people would then categorize that??....

I find this discussion very interesting.

I fully realise there is a difference between 'speaking' and 'acting'. We also forget sometimes that we are practising our basic rights - 'freedom of speech', which people in other countries have, and the day we become cynical about that is the day we realise we COULD do more, yes, but I think it's also good to just appreciate that fact. To just 'be'. otherwise we'd all get burned out with our good intentions and capacity to love and bolster others.

okay- I have no idea what I've said there. I have a migraine. it's early.

But I think you've hit a nerve, somewhere! Julie ;)

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

people in oher countries DON'T have, I meant.....

Emily said...

So, A few weeks ago, Kevin posted about Amnesty International's write-a-thon. I registered, and then I wrote 10 letters to help prisoners of conscience. Right there -- blogging made a difference.

But, the obsession with December? Right there with you, babe.

Julie Pippert said...

Mad, I love that you asked the question (on multiple levels, obviously). I agree: we must be reflective and not simply continue things out of habit.

That's my MO---carrying on by habit---but life loves to shake me up and remind me this is not a good choice. ;)

Perhaps what you feel is the need for a new level...do you think this is possible?

Karen mentions the Ox-Fam well digging.

I wonder...maybe there is something we could or should do as a joint effort. Like Jen did that time.

Maybe there is more.

There is poverty and homelessness...there are also many bloggy friends dealing with cancer. I have two real life friends.

Something?

Lawyer Mama said...

I feel like I don't do enough constantly. I get down on myself because there are so many that need help out there and I could be doing so much more good with my skills. So thank you for the reminder.

Mad Hatter said...

Julie,
Those are just the kinds of questions Jen and I are discussing.

Oh and for the record to all and sundry, I never claimed to be a cynic, only a pessimist. To me, a cynic criticizes from the outside, trying to poke holes in the fabric others are trying to weave. A pessimist, to my mind, throws herself into the work wholeheartedly but then constantly worries that it is never enough or that it is having too little effect.

Mad Hatter said...

My comment above is not quite true. I said I was cynical about Facebook and Mouse-click activism and pessimistic about the Just Posts. The distinction I make above still stands.

jen said...

don't you adore Mad? I adore Mad.

Julie, I'd like to pursue a joint effort again.

Julie Pippert said...

I want to clarify that outside of Mad's question getting me thinking, this post was all about me and what I think, and any adjectives are directed towards...moi.

I hope Mad (and all) know the Disdain and Cynicism and so forth were all about me.

As to Jen's question...mais oui! J'adore Mad.

Mad Hatter said...

Julie. I love you.

Mad Hatter said...

and I love Jen too but she already knows that because I tell her all the time.

Lawyer Mama said...

Well, darn it, I love all of you!

Christine said...

damn i love all of you guys!

well, as the late comer here i feel like all that has been said has been said.

great post, friend.

and you know what is sad, truly sad? there are some people who don't do anything. nothing. nada. they don't even part with a box of macaroni for a food drive. it is hard to believe, but true. i constantly feel like we need to motivate this apathetic group more. but how?