Almost exactly eight years ago, I decided to leave behind a job that was making me miserable to seek a more joyful and fulfilling life in food education. I had no idea what my new life would look like, but on the eve of the inauguration of our first African American president, my heart swelled with pride that my countrymen (and women) had elected such a thoughtful and articulate leader, I was filled with hope. Fourteen months and over 8,000 miles later, I was home and filled with new knowledge and connections to new friends across the country. I was still hopeful, and my friends and family, though concerned, were encouraging. It still took a couple of years to carve out a stable job doing work that I love, but patience and hard work and determination and luck combined to get me there eventually. Anything was possible. The White House had an organic garden, for heaven's sake, and kids and families across the country were starting to love eating kale!
Flash forward eight years. Though my work, family, and community of friends these days warm my heart daily, I've been in a mild state of depression since the most recent presidential election. Apparently anything is still possible... but not in a good way this time. Did we really elect this ding dong?? (By "we" I certainly do not mean "me." Good god, no.) With an ignorant bully at the helm, how could I hope to teach my students about community, about thoughtful questioning, about making good choices for themselves and the planet? How could I bring myself to encourage them to recycle at school when our whole COUNTRY was heading directly into a landfill? I stress baked, but it didn't make me feel much better. I lost my appetite for weeks -- good thing I cook and eat with kids a few times a day or I might've given up food altogether.
This weekend, at last I was again hopeful, again proud of my fellow citizens. Together, we marched. Together, we stood up -- peacefully -- and stood together. As we marched, I reflected on how we each have our role to play in these tumultuous times, to keep our spirits up and our elected officials accountable. As my visiting friend Jenn so eloquently put it during our post-march meal this weekend, quoting one of her social work professors, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
My question now is: how can we each use our passions and skills to make an even bigger difference? Letter writing isn't so helpful when one only has a shadow Senator (though those in other states would do well to regularly contact their Representatives and Congressmen). And there are concrete ways to help those in danger of being marginalized by the imminent policy changes: donating time, money, or supplies to groups working to settle refugees, improve voter turnout, nurture children and the elderly, help veterans and the homeless, stand up for gender/sexual equality, foster better relations with those across the aisle so we don't end up in this mess again in four years.... We're going to need all of our collective good will channeled into something constructive beyond the march. Where does the need overlap with my skillset? Do I make muffins for protesters? Volunteer to help with local elections in a nearby state that in two years may improve the balance of power in Congress? Start a weekly cooking group that then donates to a local soup kitchen? I wonder.
How can YOU be part of the solution?