Mondays on Let’s F.E.A.S.T will be devoted to Advocacy posts. First in the series is fittingly by F.E.A.S.T. founder Laura Collins.
A Mom on a Laptop
People have told me they want to be an advocate and make a difference but they don’t have money or time or enough knowledge. I’m just a mom in a kitchen with a laptop. No special skills, no equipment, and the only title by my name is one I volunteered to give myself. I like to think I’ve made a difference.
Individual parents have far more power to be advocates than they may think.
Your voice is needed, too. By NOT speaking up your silence speaks volumes. Let me give you some examples:
A thousand clicks is nothing without one thousand individuals with a mouse.
Your one “like” or “comment” or “retweet” may only be a single digit but without each one you’ve got nothing. You may think it doesn’t make any difference but it does. If you just click on one thing a day you will shift the conversation a bit. Write one comment on a blog and notice that posts with a lot of comments get picked up by the press. Sign a petition, “share” a Facebook post, “like” an organization’s page, and follow a writer. With social media it is all about numbers. If you care about something show it, and others will follow your lead.
A phone call is worth a hundred clicks.
Good old-fashioned conversations can change beliefs. Call a journalist who prints something you know is incorrect. The media knows that one phone call represents hundreds, even thousands of people who were silent. A lack of response is agreement.
Make it personal.
It may seem as if your own doctor, pastor, child’s coach, school nurse, or Superintendent of schools is small potatoes when it comes to societal change but the reverse is true. Society is made up of the individuals we touch. We each have more influence over those we actually know than strangers and a quiet word can influence attitudes and policies that will influence others.
Change takes time. You’ve got it.
You don’t have to do all your activism now — especially if you are still in the trenches of caregiving. You don’t have to get it all done now, or fix everyone now. Real change takes time and repeated encounters. Let people think about it. Be the one who loosens the jar.
Being right isn’t enough. Being angry is too much.
It’s difficult to find a balance between right and righteous. Just being right on the science won’t mean you are believed or trusted. But a calm offering of good information goes over better than an angry one if only because you don’t make people defensive. People want to do the right thing. It may take a few encounters, but it has to start somewhere. (Start with F.E.A.S.T. materials and you’re on the right track!)
You don’t need permission.
It doesn’t take a degree or a title to be an activist. You can have a lot of impact just by being yourself and telling your story. You can quietly hand people information. If your facts are straight you don’t need a big introduction. You also don’t need to apologize: you have a right to let people know what you’ve learned and what you hope they will consider.
Parent activists are needed, everywhere. There is a lot of work to do at the societal level, in our communities, and a more personal level. Eating disorder information has changed tremendously in the past 5-10 years and that information won’t walk itself to where it needs to go. That’s our job!
Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh
Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, M.S. is a writer and activist and mother living in Virginia. Her book,Eating With Your Anorexic (McGraw-Hill, 2005) led her into full-time activism for improved eating disorder treatment and parent advocacy. She founded the Around the Dinner Table online forum in 2004 and F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders) in 2008. Since 2013, Laura became part of a project called Charlotte’s Helix, an exciting initiative to add 1-4000 DNA samples from the UK to the international AN25K.