I’ve never met Amy Regan Gallant, but I sure do like her style.

In the face of the overwhelming negativity and need facing our nation and our state, she did something truly courageous: she created beauty and joy. More specifically, this South Portland resident created a picnic, a community picnic on the Fourth of July, to welcome the newest members of our community, those seeking asylum from various countries in Africa.

Well done, Amy.

It would have been far more predictable, and undoubtedly easier on the logistics, to instead organize a vigil or a protest. You know the drill: Earnest, angry, well-intentioned people carrying signs and urging a call to action.

I don’t mean to slag on protests. Goodness knows I’ve been in my share and I know: the folks with signs care. Heck, they could be home reading a book or eating ice cream, but they’re not. They are showing up with their literal, actual selves on the line to fight for what is right.

I respect that.

That said, I am just not sure how effective the protests actually are. Obviously, we are all tasked with standing up in the face of evil and doing our bit to make it stop. Agreed. But is the traditional protest the way to go about it? Does it work?

It seems to me that at the most fundamental, a protest is, by its very definition, against something. Against, against, against. I do not mean to belittle that; there is plenty of really awful stuff going on right now that warrants opposition. I am against kids in cages. I am against taking kids from their parents. I am against the slaughter of whales, the pollution of our environment, letting rapists off the hook. The list of what I am against is long and exhaustive. But my point is, there is also a weight to “against” that is incapacitating.

It takes passion, dedication and commitment to organize a protest. I would argue, however, that it takes vision, clarity of purpose, and more than a little chutzpah to respond instead with an invitation to gather and celebrate.

The brilliance of the picnic, aside from its foundation in the ancient and established practice of “breaking bread” together, is that it is for something. It is for who we can be, at our best. It is an invitation to join, to learn, to meet, to actively create community. By loudly and joyfully proclaiming who we are and what we are for, we haven’t stopped fighting the good fight. We are still rejecting the evils we see around us, but we are now doing so with a momentum and spark. Instead of building a wall, we are creating new paths. We are making space for possibility.

I like this. I like it a lot. I want to be a part of a world where we gather, welcome new voices and ideas to the table, share some laughs and get busy creating solutions. There is certainly a long list of dire and pressing concerns before us, so let’s keep the bread basket moving around our communal table.


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