Saturday, January 24, 2015

How I Won An Election Without Even Realizing It

Last year I ran for a seat on my local city council and I lost by about 200 votes.  My town actually voted for almost the exact same city council, except they replaced the only person of color with a young, conservative male.  Just as soon as election day was over on November 6th, friends and supporters began to ask me if I would consider running again.  At that time I was fairly exhausted, pretty deflated that my town had spoken loud and clear that they were happy with the way things were, and I asked folks for a few months of hibernation where I could sleep in, enjoy the holidays, have absolutely no agenda. 

And now we're almost through January and I can't seem to come out of my "hibernation".  There have been council meetings, public forums, community celebrations, and I can't seem to find the energy or motivation to get back up out there to engage myself with a town that I care so deeply about.

For the past 3 years of my life, I've trained myself to wake up at 5 a.m. in order to fit all the non-work stuff in (like writing a blog or running for office) before my day job. If there was a rare moment of free time between scheduled appointments or committee meetings, I'd frantically run to the store to pick up groceries, or if I was at home, I'd cram in folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and making a crockpot meal in the 15 minutes before my conference call began.  Weekends and evenings were never truly mine - there was always, always, a committee meeting, a forum, you name it. There was NEVER a single moment of down time.  Ever.  I'm not complaining, it's just the reality of the life of a working mom who happens to have other interests.  I dare say that most of the women around us probably experience this very same intense juggling and multi-tasking. 

And suddenly, just like that, I had all of my mornings free......most of my evenings free........and by golly, my weekends were all mine again.  What's a girl to do?  Well, I kind of did nothing.  I slept in.  Made pancakes for my son on a SCHOOL day (Whoa.)  Went for long walks.  Picked up a book.  And I began to embrace the notion of living with no agenda.  And just when I thought I might be content turning into this selfish, lazy human being, magical things began to happen.  When I ran for city council, my main platform centered around civil rights, income equality, and economic progress.  I wanted to help pass a fairness ordinance that would protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.  I wanted to help create a sustainable community that supported local businesses and met the food, housing and transportation needs of working-class Bereans.  I wanted to bridge the racial divide in our town that is so deep that people either deny that it exists, or are afraid to talk about it.

And so without the platform of a seat on city council, my voice was powerless.  Or was it?  Since November of last year, I have had weekly craft nights with my 7 year-old son.  This week we made paper Kenyan masks as we talked about a beautiful country in East Africa, the Maasai tribe, and Lake Victoria.   Since my weekends are free, our family has had more time to spend with our dear friends and chosen family, Ronnie and Eric and their beautiful and curious little girl that they are in the process of adopting.  Just last week I spent the entire Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with my son - we made cards welcoming refugee children into the country and we participated in a Black history scavenger hunt at our local museum.  I wake up excited every Saturday, because we've been going on local adventures, picking up books from our public library, scouring local flea markets for the perfect Beanie Baby, drinking hot chocolate late at night at our local coffee shop, and waking up at ungodly hours just to get a chocolate-glazed donut from the new donut shop, run by the kind Vietnamese man with the cool Gears of War sweatshirt.  During Thanksgiving we welcomed a table full of friends from 3 different faith backgrounds in beautiful shades of brown and white.  During the Christmas break, our family carefully went through all of our toys and other material goods and collectively decided which  items should go to those who need them more than we do.

I wasn't exactly passing a fairness ordinance, bridging my town's racial divide, or creating a thriving local economy while helping to address income equality.  But in some ways I can't help but wonder if I've been minimizing the impact I can have right here under my own roof, with an evolving, and open-minded 7-year old sponge, who has an insatiable appetite to learn about the world around him, and how he fits into it.  And well, because I have my mornings, evenings, and weekends fairly open these days, I regularly pencil him in.  I may not be doing my life's work in city hall, but I'm slowly learning to see that I am creating ripples in a place I least expected to do so, in a place that perhaps has always needed me the most.


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