October 3, 2023 -
This post is written by Fairmount Temple members Barbara Lowe and Scott Miller, about a recent house party they planned and hosted to motivate themselves and neighbors to raise their voices to national leaders in response to gun violence that is touching our communities and our nation. At Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, we encourage our congregants to be sure their congressional representatives, Senators and the White House are aware of their personal views on matters of social action and justice in our daily lives. Feel free to read and respond, share comments or ideas from your own “house parties” and letter-writing experiences to national leaders.
When we heard that friends had hosted an issue-related letter-writing party in Minneapolis-St. Paul a few years ago, we thought we’d give the idea a try. At the end of the night we counted 65 handwritten letters to our elected representatives about stopping the genocide in Darfur. The theme of our next party was global warming. This week we hosted a letter-writing party dedicated to gun control. We provided paper, envelopes and addresses, handouts with possible talking points, and newspaper editorials that we’d saved. When we ran out of writing space at the dining room table, people moved into the living room or sat on the floor with magazines to write on. At first it was very quiet as people concentrated on their letters. Too quiet – we realized we needed to put some music on! But as more people arrived, some with children who wrote or dictated terrific letters when they weren’t running around the house, and as more people started to take a break from writing to eat, drink and be merry, the energy picked up and everyone had a good time despite the serious topic. There was a lot of conversation about gun control, and how to go about it, but also a lot of socializing as new people were introduced and old friends caught up with each other. Next time we’ll probably host a potluck, but this time we provided pizza, soup and stew, beer, wine, apple cider, lots of munchies and cupcakes. Over the course of four hours guests came and went. We invited about 100 people and 40 or so showed up which is pretty good for a weeknight. Altogether we generated 75 letters.
We choose to believe that handwritten letters can make a difference because we’ve been told that they do. What really inspired us was an editorial by Mark Bittman in the NY Times about patience. He wrote: “We can only dismantle this system little by little, and slowly. Change takes time. Often — usually — that time exceeds the life span of its pioneers. The abolition movement began at least a century before the Civil War, 200 years before the civil rights movement. The struggle to gain the right to vote for women in the United States was active for 75 years before an amendment was passed. The gay rights struggle has made tremendous strides over the last 40 years, but equal treatment under the law is hardly established.”
We have a friend who laughed when we invited him to our letter-writing party. However much he’d like to see gun control enacted, he said the party was a joke because Americans love their guns too much and nothing would ever change. He stayed home. But everyone else who came wrote great letters. Some were filled with cross outs and misspellings but every single one was written from the heart.
At the end of the night, one guest had an inspired thought – why not take all the yellow-highlighted newspaper editorials and mail them to our representatives as well? So we addressed more envelopes and put the articles in the envelopes with short notes that said “I agree with everything in this article. If you haven’t yet read it yet, I hope you will”. What a great idea! A lot of people said they’d been meaning to write letters but probably would never have gotten around to it if they hadn’t been invited to the party. We thanked them so much for coming and for donating their time and energy to the dream that we can somehow make a difference.
Barbara Lowe & Scott Miller