Category Archives: Life of a Volunteer

The ASK is in the thAnKS

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This week some of the Chicago Shot@Life champs joined me to visit our Senators offices to thank them for their overwhelming support, and introduction of SR 270, in support of polio eradication,  in October.  Senator’s Kirk (R-IL) and Durbin (D-IL) have been regular supporters of global vaccines and the mission of Shot@Life over the last two years and have very often co-sponsored resolutions on issues we advocate for every day.

 

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As advocates, we often head to the Hill, or to district offices, with an “ask” for our meetings.  However, there are times that it is ok to simply stop in to say hello and “thanks for your support”.  At our meeting on Monday our regular contact was incredibly grateful for our personal “thanks”, so our meeting was a success in our eyes.  Just as successful was our meeting in Senator Durbin’s office where we were able to add another contact to our list of office staffers in that office.  This particular staff member had done his homework about Shot@Life and was also pleased to accept our generous “thanks” for the Senator’s support and co-sponsorship of SR 270.

Being grateful for support is sometimes lost in the shuffle post meeting.  And most certainly when it is an action that a Senator or Congressman took that benefits our cause.  That “thanks” might be what gets you the meeting next time you call, when you do have the “ask” you want to make, so don’t forget to make it happen – either in person or in writing – because you never know what door it might open for you later down the road.

 

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A Shot@Getting RESULTS in DC

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Ok…so I’ve decided I stink at blogging.  My mind rarely thinks to come here to put my thoughts in writing regularly.  (obviously!)  But here I am, thinking about a week I recently spent in DC that ended with a lobbying day on Capital Hill.
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The thrill that comes from meeting with a legislator face to face is one that is hard to explain.  So few people actually take the time to go meet with their Senators or Congressmen/women that it gives them a feel that almost seems surreal sometimes.  But having met with them multiple times now I will admit it gets easier each time.  The prep work, the waiting, the meetings and the follow-up are all just pieces of the puzzle that make the experience so great.

This time I was speaking on behalf of RESULTS and Shot@Life together.  The elimination of TB, Malaria and AIDS tie in closely with the eradication of Polio and vaccine accessibility to the worlds most vulnerable.  So I was able to speak on both and express my passion for both causes in one meeting.

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Me and fellow Shot@Life champ and RESULTS volunteer, Richard.

To make my point stick, I brought along visual aids to leave behind with legislators as reminders of what kids here in the US want for kids in developing countries.  I asked children at local vacation bible schools to write down what they wanted to give a child a shot at doing if they could.  The strips of paper offered suggestions like riding a bike, eating ice cream and getting hugs.  Each of these strips were thoughtfully written out by hundreds of children and carried to DC by me to offer as a reminder of the world’s smallest victims and why they deserve to have a voice used for them.   I was told that it was the most original leave behind that Congressman Roskam’s office had received before!  (Which means it did what it was supposed to!)

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Fellow RESULTS volunteers in Roskam’s office leaving behind the wishes of kids supporting Shot@Life from Palatine.

When you walk on the Hill from office to office you pass people in the halls who are making their mark on history.  You pass doors that enter to rooms where history was already made.  You feel the history pulsing through the walls and you know that you are part of that because you used your voice to influence, educate and persuade leaders to look at things differently and sometimes, even change their minds.

It really is an experience that I wish everyone could have.  But so few do.

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I met with my Congressman’s office with an aide while I was in DC.

Did you know that they (legislators) actually LIKE when constituents come in to tell them what matters to them?  Did you know that they want to hear from you?  Did you know that they listen to what you have to say?  You matter because they work for YOU.

Someone told me recently that less than 5% of Americans actually have met with their legislators… not sure where that stat comes from or if it is even accurate, but it sounds about right based on the population of people I know.  Not sure why that number is so low because a lot of people I know have a great deal to say about a lot of things, but it seems they don’t actually take that next step of saying it to the right people.

Whether it is a letter to your congressional leaders or a visit on the Hill, your opinion matters and is valuable.  I encourage you all to use it and use it often.  They more they hear from you, the more they listen… (most of the time).

You don’t have to go to DC to talk with your congressional leaders.  You can stay in your local district and talk with them when they are home.  A congressional recess is about to start in DC… which means your senators and representatives will be “home” for a bit.  So why not make an appointment to let them know what matters to you.  Take your kids along!  They are constituents too (and one day, they will vote!).  Let them tell what is important to them, too!  I promise you, you wont’ be sorry you did!

On a final note, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just get a moment of “wow” when you get the chance to meet someone you have worked with from a distance that has been a champion for many of your causes and makes a difference for things you care about.  I had that “wow” moment in DC during this visit while waiting for a meeting with a group of RESULTS volunteers to see an aide in Senator Mark Kirk’s office.  While we waited in his office he actually entered the door and took the time to talk with us and take a photo, at our request.  Having suffered from a stroke his mobility was limited, however, he made the meeting all that much more impressive at his desire to shake every hand, make a connection and stand for a photo.  Again, that was a “wow” moment in my advocacy journey – I won’t lie.

So what will you do to get your “wow” moment?  What will it take to get you to make the call and set up that meeting?  When it hits you, don’t hesitate…make the appointment, go to the meeting and go WOW your legislators with your passion for whatever it is you are passionate about!  I promise you, they want to hear from YOU!

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The IL RESULTS volunteer delegation with IL Senator Mark Kirk in DC.

My Evolution of “No”-ing

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My Evolution of “No”-ing

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings

This quote couldn’t have crossed my screen at a more appropriate time. Yesterday I had a truly life-changing moment that has taken me years to evolve to – I was able to confidently tell someone “no”!  I know that sounds ridiculous to some of you, but when you have spent years saying yes to volunteer roles because you felt guilty or because you might let someone down, the word “no” becomes a word you don’t say very often.  (And you’d think I’d be an expert at it seeing I say it to my kids at least 10 times a day for something!) Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret anything I’ve said “yes” to doing in the past.  I have enjoyed volunteering to do them all, at some point.  But I guess I am now at the point where my priorities are changing and I’ve decided to become more selective of where my time will be spent going forward.

Believe me – yesterday wasn’t easy – and I nearly retracted my answer and told them “yes” before it was all said and done, but I didn’t.  I stood firm, gave my justification and let the opportunity be passed on to someone else.  And I will admit it felt pretty good – even liberating!  Taking control and evaluating my own time and reasons was exactly what I did and in the end, it was exactly what I know I needed to do.  But I will admit that the decision to say “no” did not come without some of its own guilt and internal struggle throughout the day.

But over the last few years, as I’ve started to evaluate where my time is being spent and tried to determine where that time will make the most difference or biggest impact,  I’ve chosen to let some things go.  Things that I thought were important, but turned out to simply be time drainers that sucked the life out of me while accomplishing very little for the mission or purpose that I believed in.  I’ve spent far too many hours knee-deep in drama when those hours could have been spent doing something that really mattered, something that could actually change a life.  So, going forward, I hope my ability to use the word “no” comes with a little less angst and a little more ease.  The confidence with which I offer my “no” is sure to evolve over time, too.  But ultimately I hope that my evaluation of opportunities provides me the knowledge I need to make those tough decisions and ultimately use my time in the best possible way I can.  Because as Benjamin Franklin said, “Lost Time is Never Found Again”.  I can honestly say, while I don’t regret agreeing to things I’ve done,  I have lost a lot of unnecessary time that will never be given back.  Time that could have been better spent in other places to really make a difference.

So…if you find yourself like me, and find the word “no” incredibly difficult to say – it helps to remember – there will always be someone else to take the job, fill the role and do the work – this is a lesson that has taken me many years to figure out, unfortunately.  But, in the end, there is only so much time we each have and we have to choose to use it for what we feel is best for us, not them – right?