Sam is with a woman he met the night before. He's in the shower when his beeper goes off, and the woman, at first thinking it's her beeper, sees the message. It is 5:30 in the morning, but when Sam sees the message, he says he has to go. She says that he should tell his friend, POTUS, that he has a funny name and he should learn to ride a bike. He says that POTUS is not his friend, POTUS is his boss, and it's is not his name, it's his title: President of the United States.
-- Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing, Pilot.
Last night I attended my first meeting of the San Rafael Organizing for America neighborhood team. Organizing for America, OFA, is President Obama’s grassroots re-election effort.
How I got there seems almost kismet-y. I actually answered a call from an unknown number one Saturday afternoon not too long ago – my deep phone-aversion generally means I don’t answer unless I know who it is. I recognized the 491- as incoming from Terra Linda and thought it might be someone I knew. Instead it was a volunteer with OFA calling to ask me whether I was still supporting the President, and would I be willing to come meet her for coffee, 20 minutes, to share my thoughts and opinions on the direction of the re-election campaign. I was intrigued instantly, the moment the conversation began. I mean, here was someone as passionate about the President as me, taking the time to call and invite me to coffee?
Perhaps if I hadn’t, that very afternoon, received my 2012 car-magnet and already slapped it on the Prius, perhaps the call wouldn’t have had that prickly bit of kismet about it. I had already declared myself as In on the campaign with my first, small financial contribution, but wait, here was an opportunity to do something more. Intriguing!
All the way to the Thursday afternoon rendez-vous at Starbucks, I thought about how, if nothing else, this would be a new experience. When’s the last time I had coffee with a stranger? And so Sue interviewed me, running through the OFA questionnaire, and I realized how much I really truly deeply care about Obama’s re-election in 2012, enough to actually work for it. So when the invitation came to attend the neighborhood team meeting, I’m in.
Funny: the meeting was at the house of someone I've never actually met in person but who regularly picks up used New Yorkers from my driveway, an offshoot of a post on Freecycle. Small world, indeed. And again, if nothing else, attending will give me the opportunity to hand off a stack of magazines and put a face to the name and email address.
The meeting itself was interesting. I, of course, total nerd that I am, loved it that we were working off strategy documents from the campaign itself, this little group one of thousands upon thousands of little groups of neighbors coming together for this purpose. But the real moment that hooked me was when Belle turned to me and said, re a project to compile a list of accomplishments since January 20, 2009, that our sources only need include the White House website, the campaign website. We don't have to make anything up. Our sole purpose, she said, is to represent the President.
Oh, I'm SO in.
I had that same rush of feeling I always had when watching West Wing, that genius escapist show that saved my sanity during the horrible Bush years, that rush of pride I always felt when someone on cast spoke these words, "I serve at the pleasure of the President." Those days when President Bartlett and his administration represented an alternate reality to the one we were in, seem so long ago now. So much has happened and changed and moved in three years.
That's not to say that I was totally comfortable last night, honestly. As some know, I have deeply shy, anti-social tendencies, so for me to follow-through on showing up to a stranger's house for a potluck and meeting was a pretty big step out of my comfort zone. And I was missing yoga, too, which is not inconsequential. But I sat there in the circle of chairs and took it all in, all of the different faces and speaking styles, and thought about how it represents a different kind of kula, community, than I'm used to and how it will be good for me to work in a group where I appear, right now, to be younger than the average. That hasn't happened for a while. I was definitely surprised when there were people in the group for whom the acronym POTUS was news. Really, did you not survive by watching West Wing as I did? Really? But that's great, too, in its own way. Another opportunity to learn from difference. So, yes, I'm in.
Last night I felt a little too green to pick up the phone and start calling people to invite them to come out and join us, to be part of building the campaign for re-election from the ground up. But the moment is not far off when I will overcome my phone-aversion and do so myself, talking to strangers and inviting them to coffee to find out what they care about, what they wish for, how they might want to become a part of this effort.
If nothing else, it'll be a new experience. But I know it'll likely be more than that, another chance to connect to people over something that matters, the future of this country, the future of the planet, their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their kids.
If you're a San Rafael resident and interested in becoming part of this group, there is a Grassroots Planning Session (GPS) taking place on Saturday, June 25th, from 10-1. Email me -- email@example.com -- for more info!