It was one of those “duh” moments. Or as a more cheerful person would say, a lightbulb went off.
I’m sure most of us have experienced this. We turn on the news, open the paper or check our devices.
The headlines scream something we find troubling, unfair or even shocking. We feel we must do something immediately. Then the doorbell rings. The dog vomits. A work deadline creeps up like ill-fitting underwear in the middle of a jog.
Daily life is the elastic band that pulls us away from the bigger picture. We will do something later. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow we will take action after we aim for a good night’s sleep that never comes.
In my case, the lightbulb crashed on my head while I was checking social media on the old desktop. A friend posted a reminder to call our elected officials about yet another current issue. I nodded in agreement, but scrolled some more.
Another Facebook contact addressed the same topic, but also posted the actual office numbers of the senators and congressman. OK, then. I grabbed my nearby cellphone. I punched the digits glowing on my computer screen, just inches from my face.
“This is so easy,” I thought. “Dang. I would do this more often if I always had the numbers right in front of me.”
Duh. Palm to forehead.
Of course: I could add the politicians’ numbers to my cell phone contact list. Such a simple thing had not occurred to me until that “eureka” moment. It took less than five minutes to look up the dome dwellers and plug their local and capitol office numbers into my phone.
They are now at my fingertips should I feel the need to relay messages of concern, praise or dismay.
I’ve noticed, especially lately, you can spin around in time-sucking circles arguing with others online. Or you can hop in on a friendlier swirl by preaching to your own choir over coffee.
I think these activities help in some way.
They are methods of thinking aloud and crystalizing what’s in your heart and on your mind. But at some point, as a citizen, it would make more sense to jump off the merry-go-round and do something.
A first step, obviously, is to contact the lawmakers who claim to listen, at least according to their campaign ads. We’ve all seen the candidate who stands in dappled sunlight before an iconic red barn, clad in a business casual gingham shirt, gesticulating and nodding attentively to a group of townsfolk. We must test these promises of representation.
There are many methods of getting one’s message across, but I have heard on the street that calling staffers is effective. Phones must be answered in real time.
I think, ideally, the best way to convey outrage or agreement or questions would involve a multi-pronged approach. Write, call, show up in person, make a poster, march, run. But as daily life goes — with our doorbells and dogs and deadlines — a phone call takes seconds.
And now a word from my inner pessimist. That first call I made? I landed in a full mailbox. The second call, I talked to a machine. In my third attempt, I defaulted to email. A very polite bot replied back within seconds, informing me my message would be read…one day. Three attempts, three digital shrugs.
I wondered, where are the humans with the gingham shirts and the pensive nods? Where’s that beautiful red barn? I need to find that barn. Is anyone listening? I have no idea.
Regardless, citizenship begins with communication. No matter how you lean on any issue, calling is a first step to doing something. We can program our phones and let our voices ring.
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @DeniseSnodell