It also forces you to open yourself up to being vulnerable in the face of constant rejection. And to me, vulnerable is handing out flyers while wearing a giant red sandwich board that basically yells “STOP OIL TRAINS NOW” at everybody in a 20 foot radius--especially when those people are 100% interested in getting to the Mariners game you’re blocking and 0% interested in signing your petition.
Through the Washington Environmental Council (WEC), I helped organize 6 days of flyering in front of Mariners games to protest the oil trains that pass directly under Safeco field. Over the course of that week, we passed out over 2,000 flyers and only got a handful of signatures for our Stand Up to Oil petition (standuptooil.org). It was disappointing to see weeks of effort cumulate in so little response. Although my supervisor reminded me that educating the public is a huge part of the the work done at WEC, it was hard to see weeks of preparation result in minimal tangible payoff.
I didn’t (and don’t) think I’m going to single-handedly stop new oil terminals from being built in Washington. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I care about the issue and WEC’s mission to make my work harder at times. Truly caring about your cause is dangerous--it opens you up to more extreme disappointment and sometimes hinders your reasoning.
Non-profit work is often a continuous uphill climb, and as the days pass my respect only grows for the people who manage to balance their passion for the work they do with thoughtful logic. If you run on passion alone, you’ll burn out. If you treat it as just a job, you’ll burn out even faster.