Dresden Goes to Washington

Dresden in Washington

I woke up with the realization that I had not ironed the blazer that would magically make my outfit “business casual”. Thankfully the room I am staying in came stocked for idiots like me and I spent a good bit of the morning cursing that I had no idea how to iron but certain those creases had to GO!

Registration for the National Anti-Hunger Policy conference was quick and I liked that everyone’s name tag just used people’s first name. Something about that made people instantly friendlier. (Not that this is an unfriendly looking crowd.) Most of the people mingling in the hall at the casual bagel buffet breakfast seemed to know each other or work with each other and I felt my nervousness creep in.

I went to orientation for the conference and while I was there I learned that there is not a single county in any state in America that does not have a family dealing with hunger. That’s a pretty mind-blowing reality. An issue that has ben played out in the media as a race issue or a class issue is an everyman issue. In America 1 out of 2 children will have been on foodtsamps (SNAP) at least once by the time they turn 18. This means that you absolutely know someone who is hungry. You know someone who is struggling. They live down the street from you and they go to your children’s school.

This conference was not a political conference because hunger doesn’t give a shit if you are a republican or a democrat.

Monday morning was the day for my panel and to say I was nervous would be a major understatement. I was inches away from a hysterical cry all morning. Standing in front of people and talking about WordPress plug-ins or how to improve the design of your blog is very different from talking about the raw and naked and vulnerable moments of your life.

I think it went well. I hope it did. I honestly have no idea because it was such an out-of-body experience. The Q&A was my favorite part and I liked being able to exchange ideas with people looking for ways to find others wanting to tell their story. I proposed that rather than bringing one woman in to tell her story to a worker of the food bank/organization that they bring several and let them tell their story to each other.

I think those of us that have found friendships from the infertility corners of the blogosphere know how very powerful it is to have that “me too” moment when you really connect with another person.

Yesterday I was part of a press conference hosted by Congresswoman Jan Shakowsky from Illinois. Monday, Schakowsky and 32 co-sponsors introduced H. Res 564 in the House recognizing the critical role SNAP plays to prevent chronic hunger and give American families the chance they need to thrive in this country.

When I was asked to say a few words from the perspective of a former “client” of food stamps I wanted to make sure others realized just how important this program was in getting my family back on its feet. A lot of people talk about SNAP being a safety net, but really it’s a trampoline. It can lift you up and allow you to achieve success.

By eliminating the immediate panic of, “where is the next meal for my child going to come from?” you allow yourself to focus. I wanted to emphasize that I am where I am today BECAUSE of having that trampoline.

After the press conference the Congresswoman turned to a small group of us and asked us if she could give us a personal tour. YES PLEASE!

If you ever have a chance to have a tour of the Capitol by a politician go for it. It was completely surreal. We walked in secret parts of the basement and road the Senate tramway. We sat in the House. We sat in the Senate. We marveled at everything in between. (We learned about the secret candy desks hidden in the Capitol…)

This weekend has been such an amazing experience and I am so thankful for the medium of blogging so that I have a place to sort of unwind on the train ride home. I am filled to the brim with statistics that would blow your mind. If you want to get involved in your home state (becuase you guys DO realize that I told everyone I met that they must harness the voices of bloggers!) please let me know and I will be able to put you in touch with someone who will be thrilled beyond words to connect with you.

Today I am back to life as I know it: Parenting, working, joining W in yelling out the name of public transit vehicles on the road…

Comments

  1. says

    How inspiring! I’ve been through the tunnels and seen a tram, but did not know about secret candy desks. I feel robbed of my trip to the Capitol now 😉

    What an amazing conference and how wonderful that you were a part of it!

  2. says

    You totally rock!! Question: what kinds of charities could I donate to that address the issues of hunger in the United States? I am highlighting a different charity each month on my blog, and choosing that charity to make a donation to (and my company matches it up to a certain amount of money per year). I think we always see those ads about starving children in Africa or South America–and there certainly are plenty–but not so much about hungry people in the U.S. Is it that we don’t want to admit hunger is sitting on our own back porch? Do we make our donations to the local food banks once or twice a year, probably at holidays, and think that’s enough?

    I think you are the coolest of the cool, to share your experiences, to highlight the experiences of others, to put a face on hunger and the need for affordable health care for everyone.

  3. Jm says

    Wow d! This is amazing. Those stats are surreal, 1 out of 2!! I’m glad you were courageous to use your voice and provide insight and education from the front lines. Congrats on giving a name, a voice, and a face to the stats.

  4. says

    I absolutely LOVE the visual description of SNAP being a trampoline vs. a safety net. That’s the perfect analogy- and I believe much harder to counter in a debate with someone who disagrees- THANK YOU 😉

  5. Katie says

    Hi Dresden!

    I was one of the many in your session that morning, and from the very bottom of my heart and the parts of my soul touched by your story, THANK YOU! I cannot tell you how powerful it is to have someone like you, someone who has the bravery and integrity to share your story so that others might know they are not alone, come speak to us. I read your blog months ago when it made the Facebook rounds. I shared it on my agency’s Facebook page. I got a lump in my throat when you stood up and told us you were nervous. There were so many people in that room who I know and admire as inspiring and amazing professionals, but it was YOU and YOUR story that made such a profound impact. It’s people like you who set aside time and ego to put a face to the realities so many of our neighbors and friends face who truly make a difference.

    THANK YOU. For sharing. For connecting. For being there and being vocal. That session was, hands down, my favorite one…because of you.

    – Katie (aka the girl who chased you down in the lobby that night and told you I read your blog)

  6. Yeon says

    Hi Dresden,

    I happened upon your blog as it came up one day on a local group’s Facebook update. I clicked and realized you were W’s mommy from my daughter’s preschool.

    First of all, I need to say that you are an amazing and brave woman for sharing so much of your life!

    I also want to know, as another reader commented, how one could become actively involved in helping others (be it small or big ways). Maybe you could think up some ideas and write an upcoming post?

    It always amazes me that, in this day and age in America, people go hungry. My family has always been blessed to never know that feeling, but that’s because my parents made a conscious effort for it to be that way. My parents grew up during the rebuilding of their society after a war and knew what it was to be hungry – so they made sure that their children always had an abundance of food, even when they lacked for everything else.

    Thanks for writing and discussing all these varied aspects of your life!

    ~ Yeon

  7. says

    What you are doing is powerful – THIS is why social media matters. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help spread the message. I’d love to be a part of this.

  8. Sarah J Palmer says

    Dresden,

    You were AMAZING up there! You and Doreen were by far the most inspiring people that I had listened to during the entire conference. I introduced myself after the panel was finished, and it was lovely talking to you. As a single mother and a SNAP recipient myself it was great to here what you had to say, and more importantly that the audience was listening to you.

    thank you again,
    Sarah J Palmer

    p.s. I took a picture of the butter too! It was over the top…

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