Friday, April 15, 2016

Advocacy 101

With Ohio State Representative Anthony DiVitas

My son's death by suicide 7.5 years ago has made a mental health and suicide prevention advocate of me.  I've been to the Ohio Capitol in Columbus to testify in favor of legislation to require continuing education in suicide prevention for our public schools staff, and to Washington, D.C. twice to meet with federal legislators to discuss upcoming bills and prevention in general.  This week I was privileged to do the same thing in Ohio.

The first week in D.C, three years ago, I learned that this is a thing that people do:  They join groups and head to legislative offices to advocate for laws and funding.  Last year in Washington, we meet people from a pancreatic cancer group -- there were 900 of them! swarming all over the Hill -- and a car emissions group.  This week in Columbus, the anti-death penalty and the humane treatment for animals people were there.  And while I was in Columbus, my daughter was in Washington, doing the same thing on behalf of non-profit organizations!

Our task is fairly simple: meet for 15-20 minutes with a legislator and/or aide, tell a bit of our own story, and convey what we hope they will vote for on our behalf.  This year?  At least three legislators told me how much it means that we take the time to do this.  One shared related bills that he has introduced, pertaining to making assistance available to families in which school truancy is a problem.  My own state representative became genuinely excited about helping us with first responder training and about coming to speak at our local Out of the Darkness Walk in the fall. My state senator noted that we in our county have the highest number of people with mental health needs in Ohio, and the lowest per capita funding for same.

Seven years ago, I could never have imagined that I would find energy around the word suicide.  But's it's tremendously invigorating, to see and become part of government in action.   My inner lawyer emerged, I had a great time, and I hope we made a bit of a difference as well.

Unfinished Things

Julie's Friday Five for this week cuts close to home!

She says:

"This week I’ve been thinking about unfinished things. I have so many things started and not quite done just now. . . . 

What about you? Do you finish every task, on time, before it’s due? Do you start and put aside, or keep going? Do you need deadlines or do they freak you out?"

There are, indeed, certain things I finish before my self-imposed (early) deadlines, because they have public consequences, unless of course I completely forget or confuse the deadlines, which I did at least once this week:

1. Sermons and other presentations.

2. Tests and assignments for the class I teach (although just barely, as a rule).

3. Event planning tasks, which are things for which I try never ever ever to take responsibility, but sometimes they plop right into my lap.

4. I can't think of anything else, actually that I finish . . . .  Finish might be akin to a four-letter word for me.  There are not five such things.

There are things I work on but accept that they will be finished when they are finished.  Or not. Those mostly have to do with writing projects, and various church enterprises that will take however long they take.

And there are the big huge categories for which I have grand plans which are never realized.  Those mostly have to do with household organization:

1. The papers going back  . . .  well, literally a century or more, if you count my grandmother's. 

Letters, records, journals, essays.  BLANK journals, papers, notecards, notebooks. 

2. The photographs.  Approximately ten zillion, and that does not count the ones in the attic, which I pretend are not there.

3. The clothing.  Different sizes. Different degrees of sentimentality.  Different degrees of potential usefulness. 

4.  The books. Ohhhhh, the books. Do you need a Laura Ingalls Wilder book?  A deep theological tome or Biblical commentary?  A legal handbook complete with a full set of domestic relations forms, c. 1993?  Chaucer (in Middle English)?  Guidebooks to New Zealand (didn't make it), Italy (got there!), Norway (maybe next year).  Utterly frivolous and stupid novels?  Crime and Punishment?  Come and see me. 

5.  The yard and gardens.  Very small.  A capable person would have those whipped into shape in no time.  I am not such a person.

There are many more categories than five. 

Do not talk to me about Marie Kondo.  She has no idea. For one thing, she lives in Japan, where it is not physically possible to amass the stuff we do.  For another, she thinks that books have no sentimental value.  Also, she has finished her writing projects.  So she has no idea.

Now I will probably spend the rest of the day wondering whether "finish" is a concept I can get on board with. 

Much over-rated, I suspect.