Notes from the Field

This spring, let’s show up for our neighbors

March 19, 2019

By Kiah Abbey, Deputy Director

During a fast-paced legislative session and weeks full of presidential candidate announcements, it’s easy to get caught up in this political moment or that one. Though exhilarating, it can cause us to lose sight of the decades of political moments and people that our work builds on and the vision and the world that we hope to create.

The last few months have been both a hard and joyous reminder of the context in which our work sits.

My Papa passed away early in February and with his death I lost one of my anchors. My Papa embodied what it means to be a good neighbor. A former Extension Agent and Stillwater County Commissioner, he lived and breathed public service and inspired everyone who crossed his path to show up — be it for a 4H show or an election or just to shovel a neighbor’s walk. He was a big supporter of our work at Forward Montana; often taking the time to call folks on our staff to ask questions about a recent email or just to say “I appreciate your work”. It’s been hard to not have him to call, but everyday as I watch our team head out with clipboards (in snow, in sleet, in wind) to show up for our neighbors I know that he’s still here.

It was also in February that I was able to gather with Alliance for Youth Action leaders from across the country to celebrate our 2018 wins, support each other in our defeats or missteps, and look toward the future of our nationwide youth movement. It’s hard to not have your fire lit when you hear about our friends at Chicago Votes, who are registering voters — many for the first time — at Cook County Jail or about the incredible work that Ohio Student Association is doing internally to make sure that their organizers can access critical mental health services. This group of leaders challenges me to do bigger, be better, and love deeper and I’m so thankful that we can show up for each other.

And finally, the Forward Montana family welcomed a new member, Ruby Madison Doria. Rachel (our Executive Director!) and her husband Travis welcomed Ruby on Sunday morning, March 10th while the sun rose over Mt. Jumbo. When I met Ruby last week, I was reminded that our work at Forward Montana lives in her just as it lived in my Papa. I can already tell that she will be a force for our democracy and I’m so glad she showed up in our Forward Montana family.

As the snow begins to thaw and the green grass begins to poke out, our hearts are forced to look ahead and see the promise that the next season brings. And as I look towards that promise — and revel in the sunshine that’s finally here — I plan to keep my Papa, my friends across the country, and little Ruby in mind.


Kiah Abbey is the Deputy Director at Forward Montana. She lives in Missoula with her partner and her perfect cat Puddy.