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…