Advocacy Overload

OverwhelmedBY JENNIFER FERRIS

My Gmail trash folder contains more than 1,500 messages from the last four weeks. Scanning the subject lines and senders I see a single commonality. It’s not medication from Canada, or even “hot singlezz in my area.” No, it’s both so much better and so much worse than that. The thread that unites all those unread, trashed messages is: hope.

“Help North Carolina weather the shutdown,”   offers one sender, while another asks, “Will you phone bank to save funds for families?” These messages also appear when I crack open Facebook or peruse my Twitter feed. They brim with the hope that I will give my time, energy, and money to support their causes—and I want to. But I am so burned out by the constant bad news from the national government.  Instead of writing a check or canvassing, I end up cowering under my bed covers pretending its 2008 and everything’s just fine.

If I could, I’d help every single person who sent a mass email about the shutdown of a teen pregnancy program or the suspension of benefits for women, infants, and children. But I’m so overwhelmed that I send those thoughtful, carefully written pleas straight to the virtual trash bin.

The government shutdown has meant some families lost their paychecks, while others’ food benefits became uncertain. Federal programs that support hundreds of thousands of North Carolina families have been limited, delayed, or cancelled until the government resumes activities. Every day that the federal government stays closed, more families’ livelihoods face more risks and more challenges.

So what can I do to balance my sense of being completely overwhelmed with my desperate need to take action?

Since drunk dialing Congress probably won’t solve anything, I will focus my resources on my community. Food banks always need contributions, and may soon see more demand from families losing their salaries and other benefits. A food bank worker once told me they always need more diapers. So, yesterday, I picked up an extra pack of diapers to drop off at my local food bank. If the shutdown continues through November, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program may end, so county DSS offices will need formula and financial contributions to help support the women and families who rely on WIC to keep food on the table.

There’s even an entire Facebook group dedicated to filling in for WIC in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. I saw a collection bin from them at the grocery store this weekend, which makes it pretty darn simple to channel my outrage into retail therapy. Not a bad tradeoff, and certainly better than closing my eyes and jabbing the “delete” button whenever I see the words “shutdown” or “Congress.”




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  1. Terry Van Duyn

    Food banks do great work and I applaud your suggestion, but I have an additional one. How about working to get more progressive women elected to the state legislature! Lillian’s List identifies, nutures and promotes women for elected office. Systemic change requires sound, but compassionate, government policies.


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