I got to go on my first “Promise To Remember Me” meeting in a while this past week. It was strange to be there without my daughter (she’s off at college in DC), and to take the role of quiet organizer instead of one of the speakers. But I absolutely loved it. Being in that room listening to these advocates – from tiny Emma who is just eight to Karen, an amazing adult with Type 1 – explain their reasons for being there and as asking the Congressman for support just lifted me. It gave me hope not just for a better future for people wth diabetes, but for a better future period. Because this group was dynamic, inspirational and effective. Thinking about it later, I just plain felt good.
I was thinking about it on my way into Boston the other day as I passed the soaking wet tents of the Occupy Boston site. And then I realized what I had taken part in that awesome day at Rep. Bill Keating’s office: An Occupy Movement.
Call it: “Occupy Hearts and Minds.”
This occupy moment requires no tents, but a lot of common sense. Each person attending took a lot of time to think over what he or she was going to say; how they were going to use their words and stories to become a real person on the mind and in the heart of the Congressman. Sure, there was a group goal (to thank Rep. Keating for his support in the past and ask him to continue his support in the future), but each attendee found their own unique way to be part of that group goal. There were no weird hand signals; just honest stories of life in the world of T1D. There certainly were no wet, baggy clothes; these kids came dressed to impress. One young man, Jeffrey, even wore is tie (it was pink!) to school that day first, and explained with pride to his friends exactly what he was going to be up to that day. There was no interrupting or yelling: each attendee took a proper amount of time to speak and still allow the others there to be heard as well.
That kind of planning and focusing and delivering really does work. It was clear by the time we said our thanks and goodbyes to Rep. Keating, this “Occupy” had been a success.
The really cool thing is, like the Occupy programs you’ve been reading about and hearing about, this one is popping up all over the nation. To date, over 250 “Promise” meetings have been held this year. I don’t know if they all were as incredibly successful as ours was, but I’m willing to bet most were. And I like that idea. Because if there is one “Place” we need to occupy and never back down from, it’s in the minds and hearts of our elected officials. We’re doing just that, coast to coast.
Sure, Elected officials don’t hold all the power. We advocates can raise money and fund research on our own. We can rally and wear blue and blog and speak out for awareness too. But with the help of elected officials, we can be even more powerful.
What a lesson this meeting was to the attendees (even the parents). In that room, while some might think the Federal Congressman would be the person of power, the folks with T1D became the people with power. As Ceara, a teen girl, described the challenge of life with diabetes, she held the room in the palm of her hand. And when little Abby handed the Congressman a cute card she’s written out, with an adorable drawing and her own crayoned words asking Rep. Keating to Promise to Remember her, everyone leaned in and listened as he read it – and got a tiny bit choked up.
Long after we’ve been gone from that office, those words, those stories, those pictures and that feeling will live on in Rep. Keatings heart.
We didn’t need tents or songs or to hang on through a rainstorm. But we got it done. We occupied a place we need to be in, and we continue to.
If you want to “Occupy hearts and minds” as well, check in with JDRF Promise to see if your meeting has been held in your area yet. If it has not, sign on to be a part. If it has, don’t let that stop you. Write a letter to your congressman and senator. Or call and ask for your own meeting to go in and tell your story.
This is a movement that has a focus and a goal and just makes sense.
I hope each of the kids and young adults with T1D, as well as their parents who watched on, realize how much they changed the world that day.
I do. And I’m forever grateful. And also really glad our Occupy movement didn’t frizz my hair.
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