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You Are Not Alone

Insights + Opinion

Annie Leonard

I'm back in California today preparing for Thanksgiving with family and friends after a week on the road. Revisionist history aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday—an opportunity in the midst of our hectic year-end hustle and bustle to spend two days pausing, recharging and looking into the faces of loved ones rather than our computer screens.

We here at The Story of Stuff Project are taking time this week to share and appreciate the things we're grateful for, which got me to reflecting on an opportunity I had last week to screen our latest movie, The Story of Broke, at the Occupy encampment in Edmonton, Canada.

Now I normally wouldn't go outside in the kind of weather that greeted me in Edmonton unless my house was on fire. Let's just say it was cold, really cold. Nevertheless, I couldn't pass up an invitation to show the movie at the camp before another speaking event in the city.

When I arrived at Occupy Edmonton, entering under a giant banner—Stop Shopping, Start Living—that made me feel right at home, my first thought was, "yikes, we're going to do this screening outside in the cold?" But soon enough I was ushered into a large, insulated, military-style tent that housed a wood burning stove, enough warm chili for everyone and chairs arrayed for viewing the movie on a screen that had been set up. They even had popcorn!

After showing the movie, someone asked me what impact I thought the Occupy movement was having. I told the gathered Occupiers that I thought they—and the entire movement—were making the discontent of millions visible in a way the most wild eyed optimist wouldn't have predicted was possible a few short months ago. And that in offering an invitation to everyone who thinks there's a problem to jump in and participate, they were providing a powerful antidote to the isolation so many feel.

That's similar to the experience I had back in 2008 when I released The Story of Stuff. The incredible response to the movie buoyed my spirits by proving that I wasn't alone—that there were millions of people around the world who shared my concern about the direction in which our society was headed. In many ways, the movie had taken the temperature of society and, as it turned out, I wasn't the only one who thought we had a fever.

Which brings me back to gratitude.

At The Story of Stuff Project, we give thanks every day for the enthusiastic and generous participation of the members of our community. When we released The Story of Broke on Nov. 8, you gave it a huge push. In fact, our network got more people to visit our website that day than on the day after I appeared on The Colbert Report. Sure, Stephen's great, but our community is greater!

Now, while there's no question this community played a big role in the successful rollout of The Story of Broke—almost 150,000 views in two weeks—it hasn't hurt that we're living in a time ripe with the potential for change.

Let's face it: something is in the air.

This Thanksgiving, we're grateful for that potential for big change we sense in the year ahead, as well as humbled by the hard work it will take to make that change happen. We're also hopeful, because we know many folks like you will be part of the struggle to get there, and that together we can do amazing things.

So on Friday, while millions head to the stores to scoop up the latest gadget or some discount schlock, I hope many of you will take an opportunity to stop by an Occupy camp near you. Let them know you're with them by standing next to them. You might even bring them some Turkey sandwiches or left over stuffing.

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