You and only you
And yet I’ve gotten tons of letters, postcards, texts, and emails encouraging me to vote. Some suggest a judge or a candidate I should support. Most of the electronic contacts ask for money (usually after beginning by saying “we aren’t going to ask you for money.”)
I throw them all out - mostly without even reading them.
I voted weeks ago and am giving time and money to get out the vote and to specific candidates. No one needs to convince me.
I’ve sent hundreds of letters and post cards and tons of texts.
I do this knowing most will be discarded without even being read.
I do it hoping that repetition of messages of hope and inclusion might sway someone - maybe just one person.
In his movie “Super Size Me”, Morgan Spurlock shares the statistic that the average American child sees ten-thousand food ads a year on television. At the time McDonalds spent 1.4 billion dollars on advertising and Pepsi spent another 1 billion. Those two companies alone spent more than one-thousand times as much as the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable campaign spent to promote healthy eating.
It’s impossible to fight misleading and attractively presented claims when you are being out-spent and are out-seen by that outrageous margin.
It takes hearing a truth five times to balance hearing a lie once.
And that’s the mess we’re in now.
And that’s why I’m writing postcards and letters and sending texts that most people won’t read.
If there’s one mind I can change.
That’s a start.
A while ago I went to a memorial for a friend of mine who had been a middle-school science teacher and one of his students told my friend’s favorite story.
It’s about the guy standing on the beach seeing a stranger walk along amongst all of the starfish that have been washed up on the sand and are dying on the beach.
Every few steps the stranger bends over, picks up a starfish, and throws it back into the ocean.
“What are you doing?” the guy asks. (of course it’s a guy) “There are thousands of starfish. You can’t possibly save all of them. What difference does it make?”
The stranger bends over, picks up a starfish, and throws it back into the ocean.
The stranger looks at the guy and says, “it makes a difference to that one.”
And so I write postcards and letters and send texts - not knowing which one will touch someone.
When I first came back to the Cleveland area, I taught with my friend and struggled to feel the difference I was making with my students.
And then I realized that although I was teaching math - I was teaching so much more. The students learned from my attitude towards them, the subject, and learning.
It’s a moment when you realize that the way you do anything is the way you do everything.
The little decisions you make each day add up to who you are.
There’s a video making the rounds of a man who was moved by AOC after RBG died.
AOC, who I hope to someday be able to vote for for president, advised that each of us has one person that only we can reach. It’s important that we reach out to that one person and convince them to help save our democracy and vote up and down the ballot for democrats.
Are the democrats perfect?
Far from it.
But look as they struggle with decisions and consider the impact on their constituents and the country.
I look at our finest former president Jimmy Carter and think of an NPR story on him when he was president.
The reporter, I think it was Susan Stamberg, interviewed Carter’s dentist. The dentist said that Carter had his teeth cleaned three times a year. The reporter asked if that was necessary. The dentist said, “no, twice a year is enough.”
The point of the piece was that this typified the Carter presidency and explained why more didn’t get done. There was a great deal of caution and careful proceeding - much more than was necessary.
It was a beautiful piece that captured a moment and pointed out that how he treated dental hygiene was how he did everything.
This last week before the election is one of those moments that you will look back on.
It’s a week that I’d love you to spend in two specific ways.
Find that one person in your life who you can uniquely influence and do so.
Keep throwing starfish into the sea. Some may wash back up on the shore but perhaps one of the rest of us will reach over and toss that one back in the water.
Make a difference to that one.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 31. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe