Our Powerchute

This year -- perhaps more than ever before -- I’m giving thanks for the incredible community of which I am a part. What makes community so indispensable and irreplaceable is that when times are good, your community comes together to celebrate with more gusto than you would have otherwise. Even more importantly when times are hard, your community becomes your buttress, providing support and magnifying your strength. Today of all days, we turn to each other -- our family, our friends, our communities -- to say thank you a little louder, to hug a little tighter, to think a little harder, to organize a little bigger, AND this year in particular, to listen a little closer.

No matter how you voted on Election Day, seeing our country so divided has evinced a sense of uncertainty, devastation, fear, and aching sadness.  In the immediate days after the election, many of you reached out seeking an additional source of support or strength and I'm embarrassed to say that despite my profession, my general optimism, and my fairly consistent strength, I just couldn't find the words.  I simply didn't have them. People were asking me what they could do, what I thought, what was I going to do; and I didn't know.

And while I don't have a clear way forward yet, here's what I do know: I want each of us to know that our voices will be heard again.  They may feel muffled right now, but we will find our microphones again. And when we do, our words will be words of unity, equality, progress, fairness, respect, and love.  

Usually the monthly PowerChute series highlights one woman who is rocking it in her career -- taking risks, moving past failures, blazing trails and inspiring others. (If you've missed them, you can check them out here.) For this month’s PowerChute, we’ve started cobbling our words together. This month it’s about us. No single person, no single star, no single approach, no single message. One united inspiration.  Here’s what members of the Parachute community had to say about how to process the election results, pick up the pieces, and move forward:

“To say that I'm devastated about the outcome is a gross understatement. I still don't get it. I don't understand how millions of people in this country can look at each candidate, and roughly half see promise, while the other half see certain apocalypse. It's more clear to me than ever that it's no longer aisles we need to cross to bring this divided country back together, but rather canyons. I know of no other way to start to bridge the canyon than to start from within. Actions speak louder than words. My dear friend reminded me the morning after the election: if I believe so strongly in tolerance and acceptance, and feel overwhelmed by defeat of those two values in the wake of the election, that means I need to make a more concerted effort to listen and respond in a civil, open way to those whose views I may strongly disagree with, rather than closing my ears and eyes off to them. So, that's how I'm moving forward: deflated, for sure, but buoyed by a renewed resolve to live by and lead with compassion.”

- Lauren Alexanderson

“One small step I took towards healing was to write a thank you note (well, novel) to Secretary Clinton.  The following excerpt exposes some of my fear, but also my hope that we all heed the call to action and stand together:

I have so many fears about what the coming days, weeks, months, and years may bring for our country.  Among my biggest is that we become complacent or disengaged; that we close our eyes and duck our heads while we run our mental countdowns to 2020.  I already feel this happening – indeed, I broke down again the other night when CNN returned to regular programming and “breaking news” updates announced celebrity births and pregnancies.  As someone who felt as though she had experienced a death, any semblance of a return to normalcy was an unwelcome and seemingly disrespectful interruption of my mourning.  I do not want to forget our shared vision; I do not want to lose momentum for our mission; I cower at the thought that we will grow weary and lose heart, or that we won’t fight for what’s right...  In part because I have always been a fiercely private person with skin about as penetrable as rice paper, politics has never appealed to me.  But the events of this past week have reinforced that we are all exposed, whether we actively engage or, as I have always selfishly preferred, defer to others.  You have taught me that I must put my fears aside to pursue a loftier purpose; you have taught me that I must stay vigilant and become active; you have taught me that although I can contribute in myriad ways, I must serve; and you have taught me that despite the inevitable setbacks, I must keep fighting."

- Annie Froehlich

“Being out of the political world and having to be responsible for a group of employees who may be political or not, motivated me to keep going. Despite waking up horrified, I had to go to work and make sure things got done, new employees to train, stocking and ordering for Thanksgiving, then just two weeks away. The work of the business needed to go on and so I just threw myself in and it serves as a distraction but also a welcoming community. Most of our employees felt the same distress and uncertainty and they rely on us to commensurate, reassure, share their fears and concerns and be a calming, stabilizing voice. By stopping even for a few minutes to talk about how you feel with staff, you are providing support and getting it too -- fostering a safe space for people to have their feelings but then they also see you working, looking forward to the next day, planning and trying to continue business as usual despite the concerns weighing on all of us.”  

Diane Gross

“The day the results came in, I was completely hopeless.  The next day, though I didn't feel up to it, I went to meet a friend for a post-work drink.  When I met her, she was sad but so hopeful.  We talked about what will change, how we can mobilize together, and what we can do to make a real change and not to get stuck in a rut.  She said to me, "When things slowly go in a positive direction, we all become complacent.  It's when things go incredibly wrong that we all get slapped in the face to actually get up and make a difference."  And that's been my attitude ever since.  This is really a wake-up call, and it’s time to work together.”

- Rachael Lipsetts

“My approach has been to take a digital detox and show as much love to everyone as I can muster. I limited my screen time and allowed myself to be more present in every moment with friends and neighbors. I am choosing to show kindness to every person I meet.” 

- Amanda Cooney

“One of the only thoughts that's helped me move forward since the embarrassing and terrifying results from last week's presidential election is the fact that this is no longer a secret in this country. I don't think any of us can say that we live in a post-racial America, that we don't see color, that we've moved past the need for reparations or voting rights protections or affirmative action. What makes me hopeful is how I believe the rest of us will respond now that this deep-seated racism that many of us claimed we couldn’t see has been brought into the spotlight. When we have a certain level of trust in our elected leaders, it's easy to sit back on the sidelines with some sense of assurance that everything will be all right. Last week, we lost that privilege. Complacency is no longer an option. And although we've experienced a week of shock and horror and paralyzing fear, today is a new day. If any of us have been waiting for a moment to get involved and fight back, this is our moment. Even though I didn't vote for him, I feel complicit in his victory because of my failure to see him as a credible threat, and my certainty that he was an absurd caricature of a candidate that we would never be so foolish to elect. I didn't do as much as I could have to see that he would never set foot in the White House. Looking back four years from now, I don't want to feel like I could have done more to protect the communities that will undoubtedly come under siege during his presidency.”

- Sarah English

“These recent events have been an awakening. A call to stay in touch with my inner citizen. A call to not be too comfortable. A call to remember there is always an opposing view. My 79 year old parents provided comfort when they reminded me that we just have to ‘keep trying -- don't stop -- we'll overcome this too.’ My 21 year old daughter gave me perspective when she told me ‘I'm not going to stand for this bullshit.’. I am somewhere in the middle. Trying to maintain some composure so I can problem solve but wanting to just march in the streets. What I am feeling is disappointment, anger, confusion, worry, fear....mostly sadness. It IS like losing a loved one. Civility... dead. Truth... dead. Respect...dead. Compassion...dead. Honor....dead. Empathy...dead. Goodwill....dead. Kindness...dead.  We've been on this journey way too long. This is very personal for me.”

- Pam Coleman-Davis

“I take solace in the work that needs to be done. I feel privileged that I get to approach that work from my perch as an artist. The work ahead needs to be kind, humanistically broad, sophisticated, and smart. I think art it up to that task. And I hope that I am too.”

Rachel Farbiarz

“The work that I do everyday has helped me to start figuring out what happened last week. I have been given the privilege to work for an organization that supports and strengthens the educational outcomes of young children in the hope that they will find success in kindergarten and beyond. In this current climate - that is joyful, hard, exciting and challenging work. I get to see college students give hours and hours of their time every week to supporting these children, teaching these children and tapping into their own inner child again.  This work is what is going to motivate me and to keep me going, even though I am so sad, worried and disheartened by the state of our country. I see the college students and young children working together, learning together, playing together and it gives me hope that maybe there is a more positive way forward in this country. There is meaning and value in caring for others, serving others, learning about one another -- something that has gotten lost in all of the yelling, shouting, blaming and pointing of fingers. I am moving forward with the hope that we can get back to supporting and helping one another because I just refuse to believe that this is not valued anymore.”

- Meg Duffy

“I remind myself that the public majority voted for Hillary.  I don’t believe the picture that has been painted suggesting that all Trump supporters are racists and sexists. I believe instead that our society has some cultural norms/acceptances that simply should not be tolerated, and until as a nation we shift our collective mindset, we'll continue to either believe hateful statements or have the great ability to turn a deaf ear.  I'm thankful these issues are exposed to every single person in the nation. People are really angry, and I hope this anger spurs real action to educate each other and change. As a good friend and coworker told me: ‘It's time to double down on being a good person and move forward.’ I'm trying my hardest to take that to heart.”

- Laura O’Connor

“Hope is what gets me through. Hope that there is another way to see this, that we can somehow join together to continue to make this country better, that we can see beyond all of our differences to create a life of peace and that this is not a reflection of the end, but the beginning of something big. I keep thinking that WE must do MORE and be willing to see more than what we see on a daily basis. This feels like a harsh wake up call by our country to try and understand one another's differences. I hope that I can make a difference going forward and make a contribution that matters. I hope I can move forward and be a louder voice on what really matters. I hope I can join my friends and family who have the same beliefs in the movement towards peace.... In the end I want to have hope that this is not our true reality and that my hope will make the difference.” 

- Anonymous

“I have been practicing yoga and meditation for over 17 years. Over the past few years, I have been able to take all I have learned and studied, and apply it directly to my modern life. I have learned to hold many emotions together in my heart, I have learned to FIERCELY love human beings (with all the flaws) and to see pain and suffering in all of us. I have cried with my students and teachers about the joys and sorrows of life, love and loss. I take really, really good care of my body and my mind so that I can think clearly. And so that I can feel pain and anger and sadness in a healthy way. I don't have to know all the answers, but I should always be asking questions - getting clarity for who I am, what I believe and as a yogi- standing up for the rights of others who may not have a voice, a group, an understanding that WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. Peace. Peace. Peace.”

Pleasance Silicki

“I work on climate change and development, so I’ve been wondering about the post-Obama administration ever since I took this job. And while I had certainly imagined that the change in administrations might spell bad things for my work, I never would have imagined the racism, misogyny and xenophobia that would accompany it, nor that the compassionate, pluralistic society that so many of us value would be under attack. It has felt devastating. So what has helped in the past week?

Grieving with friends. I’ve had intense, honest and tearful conversations with friends from different backgrounds about the election, racism and its role in the election. As a white woman, there are things that I know I don’t understand about the full experience of race in the U.S. But I am stunned and sickened by the ability of millions of Americans to put the racist rhetoric to one side and vote for the candidate espousing it. We should all be gravely concerned that so many people in our country feel threatened and scared while others feel safe and vindicated. And we need to act.

Keeping at it. I had a work trip scheduled this week so here I am in the highlands of western Honduras reflecting on how to move through all of this. I gave a presentation today on managing climate risks in development programming to representatives of local organizations, because that’s what I came here to do and because the learning does not stop. And while there has been some talk of the U.S. election among the event participants, that is far from the focus despite possible implications for programming, because the work does not stop.

Taking it home. I have two children who are young enough that I didn’t expose them very much to this election even before the outcome. However, in the past few months, I have felt the need to talk to my four-year-old daughter in a more active way about values such as appreciating differences among people. A lot of this was in response to her coming home from preschool one day and telling me that some of the girls in her class said that “black and brown clothes are ugly.” She then made a mental leap, in the way that four-year-olds do, to asking what color her doctor’s skin is. We talked about how people have different colors of skin and different kinds of hair and how it’s all great – and black and brown clothes are too. This mantra for parenting feels even more urgent now. All the colors are beautiful.

- Anonymous

“I've tried to think deeply about the potential upside about reading a situation wrong. The outcome of the election was totally shocking and unexpected to me. I never thought it would turn out the way it did. In turn, I've tried to explore aspects of the outcome that I might also be surprised by -- however much I think it will go a certain way, perhaps it won't. I was wrong before I can be wrong again. While the lack of certainty can feel unsettling, it has taken the pressure off a bit that just as I didn't know how the election would go, perhaps I don't know how the next four years will go either. Trying to keep an open mind! I also think that this can serve as a rallying cry for a lot of people who might not have been as involved in causes before -- now they see how high the stakes are.” 

Tobie Whitman

“To be honest, I am still not clear on the path ahead. I have probably spent too much time on social media, reading and trying to process. In many ways, reading has only served to affirm to me that this really is as bad as I thought (or worse, if that is possible). But in other ways, it has been comforting to realize that my emotions are shared by so many friends as well as many people I don't know as well. I've also taken some comfort in seeing how many people -- individuals as well as leaders of various organizations -- are struggling to figure out the best words and actions, in the immediate day-to-day and the longer term. I guess it is good to realize that you are not alone and that this will take time. But I still sometimes cry unexpectedly.”

- Anonymous

One of the most important things we can do in the upcoming weeks, months and years is to stop shouting and listen. Really listen to each other and especially listen to those we disagree with. Perhaps one of the reasons we ended up here, so shocked and surprised, is that we surround ourselves with others who think exactly like we do. What if there was a 'listening tour' that traveled to communities across the US, where people from both sides of the political spectrum were invited to take turns speaking and listening to each other? And what if those events had a 'code of conduct' that each participant much agree to in order to attend? Heck, my kids have to read and sign a code of conduct before they participate in a week of YMCA summer camp! Why not ask the same of adults?  It's time to get serious about giving the other side a chance to express what's at the root of all this fear and hate.  People are innately good, but they can only be at their best if their basic needs are being met. And one core need of every human being is to be heard.”

- Wendy Mihm

“Part of the healing is asking tough questions. Why was I so surprised and not more aware that this could/would happen? Could I have done more? My life is very comfortable. The election result is a reminder to get out into the world and be more vocal. The past few days have been really helpful for looking toward the future. I have been out of DC running a trauma workshop in Baton Rouge for flood survivors. The chance to interact with a large, very diverse group who were brought together by their suffering has reminded me of what is possible and of people’s ability to be kind. I am focused on what unites, looking for deeper understanding and trying to become for self aware of my privilege and act on my power to make change.”

- Rosemary Murrain

“Admittedly I am still working through my sadness that human decency lost the Electoral College on November 8, 2016. Conversations in person and online with friends across the country and the world who are going through the various stages of grief has given me solace. Additionally, those who are actively engaging has given me great hope - though tempered by the fact that the ongoing engagement is a marathon, not a sprint. My husband and I have started to outline a path forward - through increasing our monthly charitable donations, personally identifying where we want to volunteer, and forming a group of local friends to discuss ongoing engagement and self-awareness in a way that keeps us accountable to one another and maintains the level of engagement over the next few years. It is easy to become complacent and this election season has shown me that I cannot, in good faith, continue that trend.

- Allison Davis

I have never been much of a poetry person, but these this poem really hit me and helped me grieve.

- Anonymous

“I am stunned but not surprised by the results of the election. Like many people, I’ve been going through stages of grief. What gives me hope is that my children have gone to school and been touched by and touched people from a broad range of cultures and socio-economics every single day. They understand deep in themselves that America is a multicultural country and that all people are equal.”

- Anonymous

“Like many people, my mood post-election has vacillated pretty widely (mostly around the low end of the emotional spectrum, between sadness and rage, but still). Immediately after the election I only felt OK when connecting with other people who were in a similar place—bouncing together between despondence, embarrassment, culpability, fear, and pissed-off-ness. I only started feeling solace when I started doing small, real things. I made a pretty straightforward list of addresses, phone numbers, and social media contacts for the Senators and Representatives of all my close friends and family so they would have the contact information of elected officials close at hand in the coming months. I made a sign for the front of my house (largely ineffectual, but sure—made me feel better). I started a creative project I can sell to raise money for causes I think are better equipped, trained, and positioned than I am to make a real difference. Part of the problem for me, and many people I know, is that we sort of flop around, not knowing how best to make an impact. I started feeling better when I realized two things: 1. Other people and organizations have been trying to make the world noticeably better (for the environment, for marginalized communities, for civil rights) for a while and are pretty good at it. I can help by pitching in to the effort they have spearheaded, whether with money, time, or by bringing attention to their work. 2. I am only one person, but grassroots movements are composed entirely of pockets of individual people who just don't stop caring. To that end, I've been doing things daily—calling Senators, signing petitions, reading and sharing, talking to friends and family—in an effort to be one voice in a sea of other voices that might eventually tell those OTHER voices that they are on the wrong side of history.” 

- Katie Kelley

I don't know whether there is any country in the world that believes in its elected leaders and the system in place that allows for their election more than the United States. We are raised as a society to believe -- in the institution of the presidency, in our democracy, in a multitude of civic institutions -- more than any other I know. I've lived and traveled abroad extensively, and each time I do, I rediscover how many look to our nation with wonder, hope, expectation and amazement. After last week’s election, one European friend sent me the image of Lady Liberty with her hands covering her face, in remorse. An Italian friend remarked, “So, now you have your own Berlusconi.” A Czech said the very same thing, only replacing the word Berlusconi for Zeman. This may be a new world for us — having such little faith in someone we elected right out of our own midst — but it’s not for most of the world. So I’ve been trying to remind myself of the valuable lessons I’ve learned abroad. It is not one solitary elected official who holds the power. It is the people. Yes, “we, the people” hold the power.

- Anonymous

“On election day, I wore purple. I wanted to remind myself that, more than red vs blue, urban vs rural, more than my disbelief at the tenor of the election, or dismay at those like my 24/7 alt-right news-consuming father who took as gospel truth what I saw as the relentless savaging of Hillary Clinton, we are bigger than our differences. Or can be. That, no matter how “other” we seem, we do all share the fundamental ideals of American democracy and the American Dream—meaningful work that provides a sense of purpose as well as security, time to love, to make connections with others, to play and feel joy, to be grounded in community and a sense of place, to have boundless opportunity, to be part of something bigger, more hopeful than ourselves alone, and to engage with, not turn away from our neighbors at home nor in the rest of the world. That is what I will be holding to in whatever is to come. That in purple America, in our willingness to see, to listen and to hear each other, we can find our shared humanity.”

Brigid Schulte
New America, Better Life Lab

“I wish I had an answer to this. I've been thinking about it for days and the closest to comfort I've found come from putting my head in the sand, which I'm not proud of. But I'll share that here in case others have that secret. Media blackouts, avoiding conversations about the election and why this all happened. Unfortunately that's not sustainable because I find myself right back there, searching for signals that it's all going to be OK. I haven't found many but there are glimpses: others' observations that the country has pulled out of times like this before, and come out stronger. The push for community-level advocacy and grassroots change. Seemingly ubiquitous calls for unity. Right now that's all surface level - just talk - but it's a start. And it gets my head out of the sand.

What's offering me a path forward is being gentle with myself. Accepting that's it's OK not to know what to do. That it's OK to be scared and hide your head under the covers for a bit. To take baby steps forward when I feel too defeated for a giant leap. That's what will give me back emotional strength to have hope again soon. I can feel it coming back in little pieces - even if they're tenuous at the moment - that I'm hanging on to tightly.”

- Anonymous

“Trump's election as president has made me more willing to choose sides and to use my voice. I've always been pretty moderate, politically and otherwise. I am not ambivalent - I care deeply about our country, people's rights, the future of humankind. I am just typically able to see both sides of many issues and because of that, I have oftentimes declined to make a decision, knowing that there are rarely simple answers to complicated questions.

But this election has made me more willing to choose sides and use my voice. Some issues are not complicated: character, respect, civil discourse, honoring the law, honoring humankind.  My faith calls me to use my voice for the voiceless. I will listen to others, absolutely, and do my best to understand. But I will use my voice for those who are in fear, for those who question if our country or the world values them. I add my voice to the people who are building a world we can be proud of, that brings in, rather than drives out, that encourages people to give their best, and expect the best from others.”

- Elizabeth Knox

Lauren Laitin