At 6 am on November 9th, 2016, I flew from Portland to Peru. A surf trip awaited me just south of Lima as did pro-bono management consulting work for a friend’s non-profit, Camino Verde, in the rainforest near Puerto Maldonado. I was barely getting over the flu. My Spanish is far from fluent. There wasn’t great internet connection.
When there was internet connection, I logged into social media to update friends and family about my trip. A cacophony of political posts wailed across my social media accounts, each offering its own response to this issue or that. Most were reactionary and emotional, some I judged to be justified (minorities) some not (white males).
I felt reactionary and emotional.
When I feel that way, I know it’s time to take extra good care of myself and pay more attention to my body. I noticed that even though I was in a country I had never been to before doing things I had long dreamt of doing, I was pulled to check in on my people at home. The pull was distracting me from what I had intended to be doing. This was even more frustrating.
As I paid more attention to the moments of calm, I noticed a trend. Gretchen’s political Instagram posts with clear action items were some of the posts I was re-reading. They soothed me.
Gretchen was not a personal friend, but I had been following her Instagram posts for a few years because we worked with some of the same people in the apparel industry.
I returned to the States just before Thanksgiving. My sister told me to look at the ACLU website because there was a nice photo of our cousin there. He had to gone to DC on behalf of his tribe in Montana in support of the Standing Rock protest. It was a nice photo, but was there for a terribly sad reason. Native Americans were being shot with water cannons on the week of Thanksgiving. I immediately donated money and wished I could do more.
My sister has a physical disability, the necessary medical treatments for which are so expensive, even our middle-class family can’t afford them. She has had this “pre-existing condition” since 2008. She is terrified of losing health insurance coverage and along with it the care she needs to survive. I’m terrified of losing her.
The reality of how hard it can be to be human, and how much harder it might potentially become, felt overwhelming, like attacks on all fronts. There are so many people and causes in need of support. Where to start? Who to help first? And how?
Mixed in with the fear was the disorientation of culture shock and the surprise and disappointment that what people wanted to know most about my recent travel was whether or not I had met any hot guys. I went to shred waves and help save the rainforest. I smiled on the outside and cringed on the inside. If I wasn’t a single childless female, would I have to answer questions about my love life right now?
Once I was back to work, an item on my work to-do list was to personally check in with all of the staff of one of my clients, an apparel company. Typical management stuff. As I started taking with everyone, I was reminded that I love the people I work with like my friend in Perú loves his trees. Watching them change and grow brings me deep joy.
My check in with Liesel went from the topic of Thanksgiving to the topic of politics almost immediately. Not typical management stuff. Remembering she had worked with Gretchen, I abandoned my no-gossiping rule, asked if Liesel kept in touch with her, and asked if she was ok. She told me that she did, that Gretchen was more than ok, and in fact, Liesel was super excited about a project she was working on with her. Did I offer to help first? Or did Liesel ask if I wanted to help first? I don’t remember.
The next day, I while visiting some clients and friends at holiday event, I ran into Gretchen herself. I admitted I had just been talking about her, and said I wanted in on the project. She said ok. Two days later, I showed up to what was the next copy-writing meeting on their schedule. Gretchen told me her story, what her thing is. It wasn’t the same as my story, but it resonated with me. The stories she shared from her social media followers also resonated with me.
It turned out I had skills and knowledge that could be immediately useful to the group. My experience managing an apparel company, which I had previously only experienced as being useful to Capitalism (albeit mostly local and all small business), was suddenly useful for a charitable cause. My experience with holistic healing and how boundaries between people work was useful in the conversations around sensitive topics such as sexism, feminism, racism, human rights, abuse, and hate. My recent trip to a developing country with a long history of colonization containing a rainforest had provided me with extra sensitivity to issues of class, race, accessibility, and the importance of environmental resources.
Being part of Good Support felt like a way to give back to all of the people and all of the causes at once by connecting more to my local community through the monthly lesson plans, and to a broader community through social media and the Women’s March. I’ll have opportunities to share what I know and learn more about what I don’t know. And I’ll have more opportunities to work with rad, intelligent, creative, passionate women.
Sine the project’s launch last week I’ve had more conversations about racism than I’ve ever had in one week of my life. The conversations have ranged from slightly awkward to extremely challenging.
That’s how I came to Good Support. I have the privilege of getting to do work that I enjoy with people who I love. I honor that privilege by giving back to people and causes who have less privilege than I have. I’m imperfect and don’t always follow the rules, even my own. I listen to my body. I do things I’m scared to do. I try to be as honest as I can be. I believe that we’re better together.