I keep a file folder in my head marked, “Bad Days.”
It is filled with reminders to keep on breathing when life delivers a sucker punch to the gut. Divorce, death, illness, deportation, job loss, all these life-changing moments that come at a shock, and shifts your paradigm — your frame of reference — for the rest of your life.
This very thin folder doesn’t hold much. I imagine it as a one-page emergency checklist: remember to breathe deep gulps of air, and keep moving forward one step at a time.
When a tragedy unfolds, friends can provide a necessary support network. Offer to pick up the kids, take over a nourishing meal, be a vocal advocate by offering to attend difficult appointments with them, taking notes and asking questions.
Within the community, for people who do not know the individual or family in person, but still want to help, being a community advocate goes a long way. In short, for situations where it is necessary: writing letters and calling elected officials, and considering how your vote will affect the people in your community.
It’s easy to think that government does not affect personal lives. There is no radio announcement or television shows with cliff-hanging episodes about legislative goings on. In reality, government decisions do affect us, at times when we are most vulnerable. I remember a day in 2007, when 100 people showed up to work wearing yellow shirts because the son of the department manager was deployed to Iraq that day. The boy joined the National Guard two years before to help pay for college, learn new skills, and build his resume while helping U.S. communities on American soil. He, and many of my friends, never imagined they would receive orders to a foreign country to fight a war that none of us understood, or asked for. Political tensions were high, and a group of people stood talking in the hallway.
“This is why your vote matters,” said one. “Oh, come on,” said another, “whoever is in office doesn’t have any effect on your day-to-day life.” A hundred people in yellow shirts stood with their mouths agape before someone asked him, “do you know why everyone is wearing yellow today?”
All votes matter in all elections. Your vote matters exponentially in every local city election, county level, statewide and national. Local, state and national elected officials affect children’s schooling, emergency resources, access to health care and health insurance, clean air and water, a livable wage, quality of life, and fair and free elections.
I hear people say, “vote your conscience.” I say, no. Do not vote your conscience, because that means to think about yourself and what you want. Instead, take a moment to think about how a vote will affect not you, but everyone in your community.
This Valentine’s Day, show some love to your community and vow to vote with everyone’s well-being in mind.