Julie Damerell is a happily retired teacher living in Rochester, NY. In addition to being a social media volunteer for Americans of Conscience, she is an avid reader, poet, and theatergoer. She is currently exceeding expectations as a grandma.
Once upon a time, I found a way to be a person who did something despite fear: Americans of Conscience Checklist.
The 2016 election result was not what I expected. Fear of what could happen to our already tenuous equality and democracy changed me. Between January 2017 and March 2020, I was a person who left home to go to meetings and rallies and workshops. I drove in the dark and stood outside in the cold. I volunteered in person and drove to places I’d never been before, even when–this is important–I didn’t know where I’d park.
I was afraid that if I didn’t show up, nothing would get better. I took it all to heart and literally to the street. But I also took to my phone and keyboard with Americans of Conscience. I found AoCChecklist on social media and knew right away that it offered a tool I needed–a way to speak up to legislators and take action without leaving the house. I learned how to make those calls and send those emails. Little did I know in 2017 how important activism without leaving the house would be.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, the public library was open, schools were open, restaurants were open. Because school and business closings in other states were in the news, I borrowed nine books at the public library that day, including three that would be due in a week. I didn’t know then that for a long time that would be the biggest risk I would take.
For two years I stayed home because I was so afraid of the virus. Too fearful to be the in-person, on-the-street activist I had become. I was also still anxious about what was happening in politics and communities across the country, so to act on these feelings, I strengthened my commitment to activism through Americans of Conscience.
I tapped into compassion and courage. Though I was literally inside, at the keyboard, on my phone, or writing at the table, I was not alone. I was virtually surrounded by a chattering, laughing, crying, persistent, determined community, also doing the work from wherever they were.
Instead of a full tank of gas and a map, my tools were rolls of stamps, pens, markers, links, my library card, my vote, and confidence that each action mattered. Though I couldn’t see my virtual community, I knew when I checked off an action and saw the number of others doing the same that I was not the only one.
When I started volunteering for AoCC, I had the AoCChecklist team by my side, people I hadn’t met in person but who I saw on Zoom or in pictures, who I knew by what they developed for the Checklist, on Basecamp and for social media. My community of creators sharing issues, ideas, and insight–priceless.
I still have all the other feelings—grief, anger, frustration, fear—but sharing the Checklist, writing for social media, and completing actions fills up the chasm those other feelings can create. I began with AoCC because I knew I had the values, time, and experience to be a doer.
Being a doer gives me better feelings:
Accomplished when I check “I took this action” on the Checklist, when I take my stamped postcards or letters to the mailbox or get a reply from a legislator or non-profit.
Useful when I do my part as a volunteer on the Americans of Conscience Social Media team, sharing the checklist, and amplifying our actions as well as those of the grassroots organizations that inspire us.
Grateful for the multiple opportunities to continue saying yes to doing something useful.
Trusting that the many also taking thousands of actions are my neighbors, that people who feel as I do about democracy, equality, and the planet are in my circle. My virtual home with Americans of Conscience is much larger than my four walls, and I see so many more doors opening.
Like you, I’m not alone. We are together in the community of Americans of Conscience because there’s work we can do to make the next hours, days, and years better for someone. That makes them better for ourselves, too.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know what to do. That changed the first time the Americans of Conscience Checklist invited me to say yes.