A surprise letter to the editor
I bumped into some neighbors recently that I don’t see very often, and they asked me a surprising question.
“How are things going with your work on affordable housing?”
My eyebrows went up. I had never once had a discussion with these neighbors about my advocacy on housing. How could they possibly know about it?
They explained that they had seen something in the local newspaper from me about it in the last month or so. My mouth dropped. I had submitted a few letters to the editor at various times, but I didn’t know that any of them had been published.
I’d struggled for months to get up the courage to write and submit letters to editor. I’d never done it before, and I was hesitant to try it. I’d found RESULTS fairly recently through a Volunteer Match ad and joined as a volunteer. I was wanting to do something more than just vote – I’ve always been involved at the local level on community issues, but I was feeling like I needed to advocate on a different level.
I began participating in and leading meetings right away with my members of Congress. Congressional staffers were even beginning to recognize me and know me by name. But sending in and getting letters to the media published about the same issues felt like a huge mountain I couldn’t climb.
After months of building my confidence, I had finally tried it out and submitted a few letters to local papers. But I was discouraged. Nothing had gotten published – or so I thought.
The day after running into my neighbors, I went straight to the library. I asked for the last six weeks of local newspapers and sat there shuffling carefully through the papers. In the third newspaper in the pile, I spotted my letter to the editor!
I was so excited. I had no idea one of my letters had gotten into print. I immediately took a picture and sent it along to RESULTS staff and my RESULTS group. Later I sent the letter along to my Senate offices to show them that constituents like me are paying attention to their commitments and actions on affordable housing.
Now that I’ve gone through this experience, I have no fear at all sending in letters to the media that tell my representatives what I think and care about. We need Congress to make ending poverty and inequity their priority. And they need to hear from us regularly to keep them accountable – that’s our job as constituents in a democracy.
That letter to the editor came back around and surprised me, and I continue to be surprised at how empowering it is to take action and speak up. If you have joined RESULTS, obviously you care deeply about these issues. You have to follow your heart – if you feel passionate about something, say something about it. I’m excited to further develop relationships with congressional offices and see what impact we can make together as a movement. With each advocacy action we take, we’re going to gain confidence and break down our own barriers.