The Silent Machine

Day of Service, baby!

Day of Service, baby!

Obama and his team of very smart people did not invent the silent machine, but they saw the potential and figured out how to use it. This is how the silent machine transformed Ole Bonita from a well-intentioned slacker to community organizer in a very short time.

It started when another mom, a goddess activist, started sending me emails about Obama. They were respectful, thoughtful and always included a line at the end about “let me know if you don’t want to keep receiving these emails.” That last line was important, because it showed her respect of my privacy and time.The early emails spoke about why she liked Obama as a candidate, the later emails used facts to counter some of the more egregious lies being flung at the Obama campaign.

Can you believe it? Rather than rolling in the mud, the Obama campaign opted instead to calmly present thinking people with the facts. And then let them act on them as they saw fit?!  I’m telling  you people, it’s a Wu Wei Revolution, you just don’t see it yet.

Powered by Knowledge

Her emails educated me on the Washington state primary system. Turns out, we caucus. Who knew? So, following the links she sent, I signed up to caucus. This is when the magic began. Not only did I get to participate in our democracy at the most basic level, I was now in the database.

The caucus rocked for so many reasons. First off, I got to bear witness to the people  who have been holding it down for us all this whole time. There was a core group of 5 of them in our precinct. These unsung heroes have been meeting in that school gym every four years since forever, fulfilling their civic duty. Two of the old timers were this elderly couple from up my street. Who knew we were all card carrying democrats?

That day was record turnout. Whereas our precinct typically had less than ten people show up in years past, we had over fifty people participating. There were two 18 year olds with their parents. We all applauded (i whooped) when they announced they would be voting for the first time.

During the debate portion, prior to the vote, the exchange of ideas and information was empowering and respectful. There were some clear Hilary supporters, some Obama lovers and many Undecideds. I went in envisioning myself swaying others toward Obama.

Instead I heard an Undecided give a thoughtful point that change for change’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. He was right. After that, I began listening more critically to Obama, to ensure he was specific in what needed change. Go figure. A healthy exchange of intellectual thought that led to a more informed decision. I really didn’t know we had it in us! I was so moved, I threw my name in the hat (literally) to represent our precint in the district caucus.

Moved to Action

Well, after that, someone let the genie out of the bottle, there was no getting her back in.  Obama’s team of very smart people would let me know what was needed and I would act. They would send me emails, I would rsvp and that is all it took. I signed up to call people and talk about Obama. I signed up to knock on doors. I got my mom and my sister to sign up to call and knock on doors. It was so easy, ya’ll. Like Woody Allen said: 80% of life is just showing up.

By the time the Day of Service rolled around, I was a full on Obamacon. I loved the idea of celebrating this momentous occasion on that wonderful date. I wanted to get my kids involved, they were witnessing a historic every, they needed a way to honor it as well. I went to and looked for an event for us to join. However, as you can imagine, there weren’t too many local places that needed the “help” of a 1.5 and  3.5 year old.

Day of Service

Day of Service

A woman in the suburb north of me had posted a litter walk along the interurban trail specifically so people could bring dogs and kids. I started to sign up, but realized, our suburb could use the love as well. So I literally cut and pasted her posting, changed the wording for our area and put it on the site. I called her to let her know that I liked her idea and posting so much that I stole them. A few days later, I got an email from a third person, who liked my ad so much, she cut and pasted it and set up a litter walk of her own. I was so awed by how good works ripple out.

A Community Organizer is Born

By now, I was a believer in the power of the silent machine. And I was starting to hook into existing networks. As the rsvp’s for my event started rolling in, I realized we may have more people than litter. So I called my suburb’s city offices and got in touch with the city’s volunteer coordinator to find out where else our help could be needed. She suggested we also cover the high school campus and nearby park and community center.

During that same conversation she mentioned a standing work party in our community that was always looking for volunteers.  I contacted the “Stewards of Twin Ponds” and offered to put their work party on the site for the Day of Service. He was polite when he said, “We are listed on various area sites, but you are welcome to put it up on that one if you like.”  I didn’t try to explain the silent machine, I just figured I would let him discover the magic for himself.

Twin Ponds Work Party

Twin Ponds Work Party

Fast forward to the Day of Service. Between the two posts, the Litter Walk and Twin Ponds work party, we had 85 rsvps! The twin ponds work party typically has 5-6 people, that day, they had 35. The “Stewards of Twin Ponds” were moved by the turnout and amazed by how much got done. Those 35 people, in ONE day, got a years worth of blackberries removed!

Interurban Litter Walk

Interurban Litter Walk

And our litter walk? It was awesome! So many families and pets! As we gathered, someone spontaneously gave a heartfelt speech about volunteerism and service. Then I broke us into three teams and we got to work. All three areas that had been suggested were cleaned and the spirit of  service and hope moves me to this day.

Now it’s your turn – United We Serve

President Obama has announced a summer service initiative: United We Serve. He is calling for us to focus on volunteerism and community service this summer.  Watch the video and then go to this site.

If this well intentioned slacker can do it, anyone can. All it took was a little bit of thought, an rsvp and some follow through (and by follow through, I mean showing up.) And the ripples just keep moving out. It’s the silent machine baby and it’s powering the Wu Wei Revolution. Feel free to jump on in!

This is the best thank you card I have ever received in my life!

This is the best thank you card I have ever received in my life!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. linda
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 11:06:33

    Okay, so you had me at, “well-intentioned slacker”.

    Really had me…says it all and then some.

    Hope this old dog can learn some new tricks.

    You are amazing!

    Thanks for caring but most of all for acting.


  2. Trackback: This is why Bonita is throwing up the deuce in 09 « Bonita Appleblog

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