Saturday, June 15, 2013

Be The Change - Part I

Two hundred people.  Some of them staff from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, most of us volunteers from 48 states -- and yes, including both Alaska and Hawaii.  We gathered in Washington, D.C. for three days of conversation, bonding, learning, and visits to Capitol Hill -- to all 535 legislative offices!  Those are the stats.  The experience was something else.

For me, this leg of the journey began a couple of months ago, when I received an invitation to attend the Annual Advocacy Forum.  I've only been a volunteer Field Advocate for AFSP for about a year and one-half, but I've fired off a number of emails to state and federal legislators, and I've been to Columbus to testify on behalf of state suicide prevention legislation.  A start. So I decided to go to Washington.

Next came a request that I set up the appointments with legislative offices (mostly with staff aides) for our state.  A thankless task if ever there was one.  It was a contribution I thought I could make, given my fairly easy schedule this past month (I didn't know about the upcoming parish funerals, of course, or the heart surgeries), but, oh! 

The phone calls and emails, the repeats, the lack of responses that required as many as five emails, the confirmations suddenly un-confirmed, all to get six of us into eighteen offices in five buildings over a six-hour period.  Some of our legislative aides were easily accessible and responsive, some not so much.  Only one of the eighteen simply refused a meeting, even with an aide -- her office agreed to an appointment, and then when I sent out my last round of confirmation emails, re-neged and said she only meets with constituents.  (She's a United States representative; believe me, if she ever runs for the Senate or for a statewide office, I'll do what I can not to become her "official" constituent!)
How many times did I groan to myself, "You know, you could be doing something else right now!"?
I held my breath Monday, spending hours at the hospital as a church member's fifty-year-old son had heart surgery while another member, ninety years old, headed to Columbus with his wife and daughter for tests for his own upcoming heart surgery.  I presided over a meeting Monday night with a disappointing attendance of two, at which a most disconcerting conversation developed.
And then, finally, more or less organized, I was off in a jet plane with two new friends and a bag full of schedules and hopes.


1 comment:

  1. Just this part of the narrative takes my breath away. No one should have to be this strong and this brave and thank God that you are, at no small cost to you...