Before, During and After: What Comes Next?

Contributed by Cindi Sternfeld. 

October 21st

It’s three weeks and two days before the midterm elections. I’m working at a canvass launch site and we’ve just sent out a bunch of canvassers to go knock on doors and spread the word about people who are running for office.  More than half of the people we’ve sent off this morning have never canvassed before, and if you’d asked them two years ago they might not have even known what the initials GOTV stood for. But today they know and they are reaching outside their comfort zone to do the work of Getting Out The Vote.  We train them, connect them with partners and send them out. They don’t need to know it all, they just need to be willing to learn some basics, spread their wings and see what happens. Show up, connect with others, learn what you need and take action. Pretty much what we have done all along.  It’s a rinse and repeat kind of thing.

October 30th

It’s one week before the midterms and days after the murders at Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  My heart is broken. Many of us learned about the shootings when we were at a postcard/canvassing event.  In retrospect, I wish I had stopped, learned more and let everyone there have a moment to absorb this horrible news, but I felt I would have fallen into a puddle on the floor – and we had so much work to do.  In the last few days, I’ve been beating myself up because as a leader in this group, I believe it is my job to offer encouragement and hope, but also to offer a place for people to bring the hard stuff and feel it in the safety of our embracing community.  

Today I realize that it would have been okay to let myself fall into a puddle of sadness if I needed to, because I know who we are.  I know what we are made of. I know what fuels us. It is the vast power of all that we love, it is our hope, our passion. And sometimes, it is also the sum of our sadness and grief as we bear witness to these senseless acts of hate and oppression.  We may not be able to prevent bad things from happening but I know we will be here to support each other when they do. The day after the tragic event, I connected with my Rabbi and friends, and showed up at the service in Richboro, PA, surrounded by Indivizzies and the larger community.  It was healing and helpful. There it was again. Show up, connect with others, learn what you need and take action.

To the question at hand: What’s next?  I’m not going to lie. I don’t know what will happen next.  I do not know what will happen on Election Day. It feels as if we need to create an intricate decision tree: If we win the House but not the Senate; if we win nothing, if we win it all.  But what’s next is not about what happens on November 6th.  It’s WHO WE ARE that will determine what’s next.   

After the election we will take a breath and rest for a few minutes.  Then we will be looking for you to step forward, identify the issues you care about and volunteer to work with others to learn and ultimately help the group to take the next steps.  While the issues we delve into and the answers to them might vary, the machinery of how we do it will stay the same. We will show up. We will connect with our community. We will figure out what we need to know and learn together, and we will take action that aligns with our values.

So while I don’t know exactly what’s next, I promise you this, if you keep showing up, I’ll keep showing up.  Let’s show up together – for all of it, the days we feel like a puddle and the all more frequent days we can celebrate this fierce community and the democracy we love.  

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