By Monica Gomez
Growing up, my mom would teach us to speak up and to ask for help when we needed something. When we didn’t ask, she would say, “Te debería de dar pena robar, no preguntar.” (You should be shy about stealing, not asking.) Even though I am not a shy person, I sometimes hesitate to ask people for help. These past few weeks, I have been working on finding the confidence and developing the skill to make “the ask.” It takes a lot of courage and a positive voice. The main thing that has helped me to not be shy and to ask, is by keeping the bigger picture and goal in mind.
Working on the soda tax campaigns in Oakland and San Francisco has given me a chance to connect with people and make “the ask” much more easily than I ever expected. Understanding why our communities are “infested” with diabetes has raised a sense of urgency in me to get out and share what I know. Every time I communicate with someone on the streets, I always talk about Proposition V and Measure HH. I share the importance of these two measures and in return, people share stories about their families and how they are affected by diabetes. The fact that it is not just happening in my family, but also in other families inspires me to work even harder.
I’ll always remember a conversation I had with an elderly man who was standing outside the San Francisco headquarters looking at one of our signs. I asked him if he needed help, and he said he did not know English, but he knew that the sign had something to do with diabetes. I explained what Proposition V was and right away he shared that his wife had kidney failure and was going through dialysis every other day and not getting any better. I told him I was sorry to hear about his wife and that this was one of the reasons why we were working so hard to try to stop the diabetes epidemic and pass Proposition V. When he expressed his support, that’s when I decided to make the ask. I told him that we needed people like him to help us spread the word. Although he did not have a lot of extra time, he said he was still committed to help when he could. I’m glad he shared his story with me because this was another push for me to continue doing the work we do.
It’s not always easy to make connections when you are organizing in a new community. But working for the soda tax campaign has changed that for me. My connections with the elderly man would not have happened had I not made the ask. This strengthened my connection to organizing in the Mission District. In organizing, we can only be effective if we continue to make connections and make the ask. This is how movements are made!