I mostly want to reflect on the Postcard Potluck that we hosted on Saturday night. I've thought a lot about it, and a lot of people have asked me about it, so I am going to seize the snow day chance to share my thoughts––and a picture of The Event Itself.
In some ways, it was a non-event: the "flurries" forecast turned into steady, fluffy snow on top of Thursday's offerings, rendering the driving buttery at best, so we got a steady stream of phone calls saying people had (wisely) decided to stay home. To our delight, however, five hardy souls made it, bringing an exciting variety of food (all of it delicious) and drink (ditto). We met each other, chatted about life, ate, then settled down to the actual work of the evening: writing postcards to our elected officials. By the time folk headed back to their respective houses around 7:15, the snow had stopped, Ellsworth's Winter Carnival Fireworks had lit up the sky, and we'd written forty-five specific, personalized, heartfelt postcards. *That* felt great.
A lot of the people who couldn't make it or cancelled due to weather asked us to let them know when we rescheduled, so I've been thinking about what worked and what I'd change up, because I do feel like doing it again in a month or so (Mother Nature, I'm looking at you!). I read the Indivisible Guide in preparation for the evening, and it emphasizes sharing what we're all doing, so here goes: Lessons from a Preliminary Postcard Potluck.
1. Just do it. We picked a date, Andy printed up little business cards with a summary of what we had planned, and we set about distributing them to various friends and colleagues. I posted on Facebook, eventually tagging people, especially ones I hadn't seen in person--and people thought it was great! My son boasted us up on Facebook (!!!) and several of his friends shared our post. Suddenly I felt like Pete Seeger or something. . . but it was really easy and quite mellow. With an activity as a center, it was actually less stressful than planning a dinner party!
2. Ask for advice and input from people who've done it. One of my friends had been distributing postcards, addresses, and stamps, so I talked to her about what she recommended that we do. She reminded me about the one issue/card suggestion, and she helped me arrange to get suitable postcards printed at a local shop. She also told me that there are Forever stamps for postcards––a money-saving fact I did not know. I didn't manage to contact two other friends who had done similar events on MDI, but I bet they would've had helpful suggestions, too.
3. Provide supplies. We set out postcards, address labels, and stamps. At the last minute I corralled a bundle of pens, and we had a good laugh about the quality of my teacher pens, but the moral of the story is that a nice gel pen makes writing a postcard that much easier!
4. Provide name tags. Though we invited a cross-section of people and only a fraction of them came, we did have name tags and people wore them! It made it easier to know that Dawn was actually Dawn, not Donna, and alleviated the whole "I'm really sorry, but I forgot your name!" awkwardness. If we'd had a bigger group, I was planning to ask people to add a word saying how they knew us as an ice breaker, but with our group of seven, it wasn't necessary.
5. Provide a list of potential talking points, organized by area of concern. I didn't do this, but I plan to do it in the future! In our small group, we featured scientists, a minister, three teachers, and two nurses, so we had a lot of specialized knowledge. Even so, we needed to talk about what to write about, and why. In a larger group, I think people might've felt shy about saying, "I'm pissed off, but I have no idea what to say or to whom!" A list of specifics––offered as suggestions, of course––would avoid that dry period.
6. Take pictures! Ask first, especially if anyone might be vulnerable in any way, but if they say yes, take and share pictures! If they'd prefer not to have their faces recorded, an artsy shot of hands holding pens might be just the thing. Let other people know what you're doing––maybe you could even send a copy to your elected officials as your next postcard.
7. Finally, again: just do it, having asked a variety of people in a variety of ways. The evening was heartening, fun, interesting, positive, communal, warm, and distracting. Moving from worrying to action was a huge relief, and hanging out with people I don't often hang out with (or had never hung out with!) was a great antidote to any winter's cabin fever, let alone 2017's. I felt a great surge of pride, similar to that I'd felt at the Women's March in Augusta, in "us." That sense of accomplishment and unity is there to be tapped when I see the pictures I took, when I see the people who came, when I think of the evening. It's a far cry, and a nice change, from the lonely devastation of the past few months.
I will probably come back and edit this a few times as new ideas pop into my head, but these are my insights so far. We are planning to do another evening, probably in March, but I'm also feeling a deep need to gather with people and to sing (church has been a great outlet for that lately). The Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" is my anthem lately, and I'm considering asking some friends of ours to help us organize a "sing out for justice, even if your voice shakes" evening soon. Coming together, especially with people whom I don't see often (or know very well, in fact), especially in the middle of winter in Maine, feels blessed, important, and completely contrary to the Trump agenda. Onwards.