by Carol Hohle
Environmental activist and ecospirituality practitioner
I was raised in an environmentally conscious family and re-engaged in environmental advocacy work ten years ago. Since 2006 I’ve been a part of several projects to create awareness and change – working on clean energy legislation in Massachusetts, closing inner city coal power plants in Chicago, rethinking the need and placement of oil pipelines across the US, and encouraging individuals to live more lightly and lovingly on Earth.
One experience in particular convinced me of the importance of gratitude in advocacy work. It was during 2007-2008 when I had the privilege to be part of the Massachusetts Interfaith Climate Action Network. As a network of 19 different faith and environmental communities we created several actions encouraging our state legislators to pass clean energy legislation.
Early in the work our planning group wrestled with the best way to engage our congregations and our legislators. We thought perhaps we needed to educate our congregation members about the climate change facts and have them share this information with their legislators. And, as we began to prepare training sessions for our congregations something didn’t feel authentic about this approach … we became concerned we wouldn’t speak effectively to the issues because we weren’t environmental scientists or advocacy professionals. We were simply people of faith, and voters, who cared about humanity’s impact on the environment.
We paused and asked ourselves as people of faith: What did we have as a powerful resource to support our legislators in their deliberations? What could we offer that would be meaningful? We realized that as a faith community, we had our spiritual resources – our faith and prayers – to offer loving gratitude to our representatives. We wanted them to know how grateful we were that they were considering measures to live more lightly on Earth. We wanted them to feel appreciated and encouraged that they were tackling these tough issues. And, if they needed more information we could point them to climate scientists and clean energy experts.
We held “A Day of Prayer and Advocacy” at the Statehouse with more than 100 people in attendance who then fanned out throughout the building stopping in various offices thanking legislators and their staff personally.
The workers in the Statehouse were happily surprised by our visits. And, over the course the next two months we delivered more than 3000 thank you notes written by our congregation members.
Five bills passed that year! At that time it represented a record number of environmental bills in Massachusetts. Then Governor Deval Patrick acknowledged a difference, calling it “one of the most productive in a long, long time.”
The gift of that year for me was two-fold, I learned:
- To speak from a place of authenticity
- The power of faith that undergirds kindness
That year convinced me of the importance of a spiritual gratitude practice. Our advocacy planning meetings always included a section on gratitude. And, at every rally or advocacy meeting since I look for ways to express appreciation and include the practice of gratitude in all we do.