Showing up in the Middle: A Case for Activism even when you’re… “Meh”

When I was 20, my boss hired a sweet girl who I thought was totally under qualified to be a colleague. I’d worked with her before and she made constant mistakes.

“I don’t get it?” I said. what

“She shows up,” my boss replied.

So that’s it? My overzealous, idealist 20-year-old self is insulted! (I now refer to this stage in life as the hungry puppy phase.) I work my tail off and all she has to do is show up? Having worked in quite a few different settings now, I get it. So very few of us show up. Whether it’s daydreaming in a meeting or Facebooking while your sister pours her heart out to you on the phone, we’ve all done it.

The voice we need most is the middle – that’s most of us.

My concern is that, in a pivotal time in our political history, we will stop showing up. And let me tell you, the extreme left and right will not stop showing up. Raise your hand if you fell in the middle on this last election or had a general feeling of, “Meh! I hate these choices.” Regardless of which ring you tossed your vote into, there is work to be done.  (Congressional staffers will tell you how rare it is to get a call from the middle.)

Sunday nights are becoming my “get organized” night. As I plug away, trying to figure out what the heck “civic engagement” really means for my own life, I try to set two or three goals a week. Lately this has meant reading up on how to actually be effective. (I donated $5 for the reading up link. Simple and worth it.) Here’s what I learned. It’s best to call or write a hard copy letter to my district office. (I’ve seen how D.C. is on “Madam Secretary” and “House of Cards.” That’s scarrrrry….I don’t wannnna call to there.) Calls, voicemails, and emails to your representatives “contact me” page all get tracked and make a difference when you write them yourself – no forms!

Call or write this to your representatives: 


Personal stories carry a lot of leverage.

Politicians need to understand – and convey to others – how things affect people in real ways. I’m relieved by this. I don’t have to be an expert. I can fall right down the middle in my opinion (few bills and political actions do so, don’t worry, you’ll have something to say). And I can send my thoughts in a way that suits my comfort level best. I’ll call when it’s urgent and important. I’m also thinking of going to get some really beautiful cards and one of those nice, juicy pens that’s a pleasure to write with, and then mail it to my district office.

I’m going to keep showing up.


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