Letters

Stand up with your neighbor and build a new culture

Dear Friends, 

This week, I attended my second meeting of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign. I am very much a newcomer to this movement, but I want to write about it to you today because I feel strongly that the movement is essential right now. 

In the past several months, we have gone through an awful lot together as a world community. We are tired. We are heartbroken. We are worried. And we are isolated. Isolation in times of dire stress is traumatic. We are all being traumatized at the same time, and it’s really awful, and we need to connect to one another. Connection is healing and extraordinarily powerful. You know it intuitively. When you feel connected to your neighbor, you celebrate each other’s happiness. When you feel connected to your partner, you can soften in their arms and be your best, kindest self. And when you feel connected to your nation, you feel a sense of hope and power. It’s been a long time since some of us felt that. I felt it when I watched President Obama’s inauguration. I know that was a complicated time, but at that moment, I saw us as a country that had grown and was continuing to grow toward our shared aspiration of greatness. And these days? I do not feel great. 

Thankfully, over the past few days, I got a couple reminder emails and text messages about the Maryland Monthly Monday Meeting, and mustered just enough energy to join via Zoom. I admit that when I signed on at 7 p.m. I was already tired and feeling done with the day, but I figured sitting quietly and listening to the presenters wasn’t too much work. In fact, I was rewarded generously for such a small effort. As the first speaker welcomed us and opened the meeting, the love and joy radiating from her was exactly the lift my spirit needed. Just to see her face would have been enough, but then to see the hundred or so people who joined as well … I suddenly felt so much less alone. The burden of sadness was lifted from my shoulders, and I started to feel the simple joy of connection. 

The Maryland group seems to be growing, which is exciting. They’re doing a lot of outreach to educate and empower voters. Each meeting so far includes time to review part of the Jubilee Platform, which is a document that describes the moral policy agenda of the movement. The organizers are covering a lot of ground in each meeting, so there’s a lot of listening, which is a good thing for me. It’s helpful to hear people speak confidently and passionately about things I have always believed but couldn’t articulate for some reason. Since the statewide meeting is pretty large, we break out into regional groups for about 20 minutes each time, but I’m hoping my regional group will start to have separate meetings so we can spend more time getting to know each other, as I feel that’s key to being able to collaborate and support one another. 

This week’s meeting also included a presentation by Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, a member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, to help everyone understand how to vote in this election — KEY TAKEAWAYS on that point, by the way —

  1. Do not request a web delivery ballot if you don’t absolutely need it. Those are meant for military overseas living in regions with poor mail service. The processing for these ballots is much more complicated than a regular mail in ballot, so overwhelming that part of the system would be a problem. Don’t do it.
  2. You do not have to actually put your ballot in the mail. Instead, you can drop it off at a designated ballot drop box, which you should be informed about when you receive your mail in ballot. Make sure you drop your ballot at the box nearest to your home (in your correct voting district) because dropping it off in the wrong district will cause delays with counting your vote and will unduly burden the system. 

Another thing discussed in the meeting was the very serious need for election judges and poll workers. Many voting districts don’t have enough poll workers, which is bad news for everyone. In most places, poll workers average in their 60s, and due to the threat of COVID-19, many of those individuals are stepping away from their roles. The pandemic is real, and I don’t want anyone who is immune compromised to put their life or loved ones on the line, but if you have the blessing of good health, gloves and a mask, I urge you to consider applying with your local board of elections. 

My friends, we’ve got work to do. If you don’t want to vote by mail, make yourself a plan for election day. The lines are going to be long. Know your polling place, plan to dress warmly, and bring a friend. Find out when early voting starts in your area. And between now and then, make sure your friends know how to vote. I also encourage you to look into Poor People’s Campaign meetings in your region. Now really is the time to make sure you’re living in alignment with your values, and if you know something is wrong in this country, then start talking about it. And start learning about it. And start organizing about it. There are already people out there who have started a movement toward the America we all deserve. All we have to do to join it is start moving with them. This is not a plea for donations (although donating where you can is good). This is a call to stand up for yourself and your neighbor. If everyone who could vote did, I know we’d be in a very different world. Let’s start building that world. 

I love you, and I believe in you~

Mary

P.S.

If you still need convincing, please listen to the song below and read these statistics about what would be possible if low income citizens voted at the same rate as high income citizens. It really could change the world.